UK announces plan to “export” illegal immigrants

O primeiro-ministro britânico, Boris Johnson, durante visita à Ucrânia em abril de 2022.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Ukraine in April
.| Photo: EFE/EPA/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service

The UK government plans to start sending asylum seekers to Rwanda “soon” after signing a controversial deal with the African country on Thursday. to welcome them, according to the undersecretary for Justice and Combating Illegal Migration, Tom Pursglove, informed on Friday. The proposal was criticized by politicians of all parties and more than 160 non-governmental organizations.

Speaking to ITV, Pursglove defended the government’s plan to first resettle unmarried male immigrants to the UK illegally in Rwanda. The minister said that the system can be supported by the immigration legislation in force and should be operational in the coming months, and guaranteed that it will be profitable for Rwanda “in the long term”. The plan, he explained, intends that immigrants sent to Rwanda – those who are considered economic immigrants and not refugees from conflict – “may lead a prosperous life” in the African country, while breaking “the business model of gangs of human trafficking.”

Although the details are unknown, the Executive announced that the entry program will apply to male immigrants who have arrived illegally by boat or truck across the English Channel for economic reasons. In 2021, a record of

.2021 people arrived in the UK illegally via the English Channel on chartered ships from detention centers in France, 8.

more than in 2020. Although this number is minuscule compared to the millions of refugees that other countries receive, for example, as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to reduce it to fulfill its electoral promise.

According to minister, plan applies to those considered “economic immigrants” and non-conflict refugees

More of 160 entities condemned the government’s “cruel and petty” initiative, which is under pressure to root out illegal immigration as part of its pledge to regain “border control” after Brexit. In an open letter to Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel, the signatories demanded the abandonment of the program and instead “provide humane and effective solutions” for those seeking refuge in the UK. “Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda will cause immense suffering and the most vulnerable will be the most harmed,” they wrote. “It is a shamefully cruel way of treating people who have come to the UK for protection, fleeing persecution or conflict,” they added. The NGOs also questioned whether people will be forced to board the plane and whether the transfer of “survivors of torture or trafficking, children and people who are sick or with serious mental health problems” will be contemplated.

Both these organisations, including Amnesty International, and several MPs highlighted Rwanda’s poor record of protecting human rights and warn that the cost of the program will be “astronomical”, when all detention, transport, escort, legal and administrative costs are added together. Under the five-year agreement with Rwanda, the British government will pay million pounds (about BRL 735 million), to start the system of reception, and then pay other amounts for each immigrant received.

UN Agency and Commissioner also criticize plan

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on Friday expressed their strong opposition to the British government’s plan to “export” immigrants to Rwanda. “We are firmly against the plan to seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries amid the absence of guarantees and norms. This simply implies the evasion of international obligations”, said the UN body, whose mission is to protect refugees. Such an idea also violates the letter and spirit of the International Refugee Convention, to which the UK is a party, he added.

UNHCR said that people fleeing conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy and should not be treated as objects to be traded and transferred abroad. Along these lines, he asked the United Kingdom and Rwanda to reflect and change their plans. He clearly highlighted that if they did not, the risk for refugees would increase, as they would seek alternative routes. “UNHCR believes that the richest nations should show solidarity and support Rwanda and the refugees it has been hosting for decades,” he said, noting that the vast majority of them live in camps and without economic opportunities.

Bachelet also stated her opposition to the UK idea because of the risks of human rights violations that could entail. Among them, she mentioned the risks of not carrying out a proper individual assessment, deportation, forced transfers, arbitrary detention, trauma and family separation.

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