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“The British program to send migrants to Rwanda will not work”

The UK has announced a partnership with Rwanda to “fight illegal immigration, control borders and crack down on the criminal gangs who exploit this international crisis”. But according to Rhys Clyne, a researcher at the Institute for Government, this program, which is very vague, risks missing its objective.

What is this partnership between the United Kingdom and Rwanda to fight against illegal immigration?

It is a question of relocating in Rwanda the migrants who arrive by routes not authorized in the United Kingdom, whether on boats crossing the Channel or by truck. The objective is not to send them there while waiting for their asylum application to be processed, with the possibility of returning to British soil, but to leave these people in Rwanda. They will be able to apply for asylum directly on the spot. Nevertheless, the agreement explains that the United Kingdom could take some refugees from Rwanda, but there are no details on the people concerned. In general, there is a lack of details on the establishment and operation of this program.

In your opinion, this plan is unlikely to work. For what reasons ?

One of the government’s aims is to deter migrants from trying to cross the English Channel. But there is very little evidence to suggest that this kind of policy has such an effect. In countries where similar programs have been tried, the opposite effect has occurred. This was the case in Australia, although the measures put in place were not very different. It is the migration procedures that have been delocalized, with the possibility for refugees who obtain asylum to return to Australia. The number of boats smuggling migrants into the country was only reduced when other measures were introduced, such as sending boats back to sea. rightly recognized the safety and legal issues associated with returning boats to the Channel. Plans to implement this practice were abandoned. It is therefore by no means certain that sending migrants to Rwanda alone has a sufficient deterrent effect.

Would the program return everyone who manages to cross the Channel?

Another limitation is the capacity issue. There are no precise figures yet, but initial reports point out that a few hundred people could be relocated to Rwanda each year. However, to date, a hundred people arrive by boat on a daily basis. Last year, there were 28,000. Who will be sent to Rwanda? We don’t know what the department’s criteria will be. There has been speculation that it should be mostly men and not families. This has not been confirmed but if so it will not deter women and children from attempting the crossing. So the program doesn’t seem at all commensurate with the problem the government is trying to tackle.

The budget presented within the framework of this partnership is 120 million pounds. Does that sound believable to you?

This budget includes the investment of the United Kingdom for the development of Rwanda but the detail for the relocation of people is not specified. Estimates range from 20,000 to two million pounds per person per year, the latter figure being equivalent to the cost of the Australian programme.

“If Boris Johnson’s government wants this program to be considered a substantial and serious proposal, it must give more details”

Why did the British government adopt such a strategy?

Immigration has been a very important political topic for a long time. This was a key issue in the Brexit debate and in the Conservative manifesto of 2019, which carried the idea of ​​a new approach to immigration after leaving the Union. And the number of arrivals has increased significantly over the past year: the government wants to give the impression of seriously tackling this subject.

Is he also trying to divert public attention from his difficulties, such as the “partygate” scandal (parties in Downing street in full confinement)?

I leave it to others to decide on the political calculations of Priti Patel, the Home Secretary… But if the government wants this program to be considered a substantial and serious proposal, we need more details . In this sense, it seems that the government has not learned the lessons of the Windrush scandal. [cette affaire de 2018 a conduit à la privation des droits légaux, à la détention et à l’expulsion à tort de personnes arrivées légalement depuis les Caraïbes avant 1971]. An independent investigation has been carried out to highlight the errors of the Ministry of the Interior in this case. There have been dangerous gaps between the decisions made by officials and the understanding of how to implement these policies on the ground. There was also a lack of consideration of the effects of the policies applied at the time on certain communities. The ministry runs the risk of repeating the same mistakes. How will this work cost-wise? How will decision making be made? Which individuals will be relocated to Rwanda? How can you be sure that they will be treated well and safely? The government must also prove that the program holds water from a legal point of view.

The partnership is indeed highly criticized in the United Kingdom from a legal and ethical point of view. For some opponents, this amounts to human trafficking… Do you find this comparison fair?

This literal interpretation of the program is correct, since it is about sending people to Rwanda in return for payment to the country. The real question is whether this contravenes international laws which the UK must comply with. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary say they believe the scheme meets the UK’s international obligations, but the fact that they say so does not make it true! The government will quickly find itself waging various legal battles to try to prove it. According to some critics, provisions in the immigration law could create a two-tier system for seeking asylum. However, the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the United Kingdom is bound, protects the right to life and liberty against torture and discrimination. It would therefore be a breach of the UK’s international obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and other similar agreements, that people arriving via illegal routes could not be admitted. The other point on which the legality could be called into question concerns the choice of Rwanda. There are recurring concerns about respect for human rights in this country. The UK itself had raised concerns about this with the UN last year. Organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed reservations on the issue of freedom of expression, arbitrary detentions and even torture in the country. The current government is also criticized because refugees were killed during a demonstration in 2018. These legal problems risk hindering the implementation of the program.

When should it start?

No one knows ! The government wants it to start as soon as possible. The law received royal assent on April 28, so it has only just taken effect, but the government will therefore surely have to defend the legality of its program before implementing it and there may be protests, as in every time the UK tries to deport people by air. But given the lack of detail, I doubt that the program will be applied on a large scale quickly. Perhaps it will be on a smaller scale in order to spread the political message.

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