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When the United Kingdom exports its refugees to Rwanda

In April, Boris Johnson’s government struck a deal with Rwanda to send migrants there awaiting refugee status in the UK. Despite the controversy, the first plane to Kigali is due to take off on Tuesday evening.

Protesters against the UK-Rwanda deal, London, June 13 @BELGAIMAGE

One of the richest countries in the world convinced one of the poorest to take in refugees it doesn’t want“, summarized in 2014 the American magazine Foreign Policy, about the Australian asylum policy. This could also apply to the United Kingdom, which, under the impulse of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is now copying the system put in place place by Australia.

For several years, Canberra has indeed outsourced its management of asylum seekers to third countries. Migrants who manage to reach Australian shores are sent back to Cambodia or to detention camps on the islands of Manus, in (Papua New Guinea), and Nauru (Micronesia).

An outsourcing policy that the British government therefore decided to adopt last April, by concluding an agreement with Rwanda. The text provides that refugees who have arrived illegally on English soil will be expelled to Kigali, where they will be temporarily accommodated. Their request for asylum in the United Kingdom will be examined 6,000 kilometers from London, directly by the Rwandan government. If accepted, they will be granted asylum for five years.

Despite the criticism, the British justice rejected, Monday, June 13, last minute appeals against these expulsions of migrants. Barring a final reversal, a first plane with Afghan and Iranian refugees on board is due to take off for Rwanda on Tuesday, June 14, in the evening.

Financial counterparties

With this measure, London hopes to deter illegal arrivals in the country, always more numerous. Since the beginning of the year, more than 10,000 migrants (a record) have illegally crossed the Channel to reach the British coast in flimsy boats. “The criminal groups putting people’s lives at risk in the English Channel must understand that their economic model will collapse under this government“said Boris Johnson on LBC radio on Monday.

To ensure the relocated management of these asylum seekers, Rwanda obtained financial compensation. The initial agreement covers the next five years; London will initially finance the system to the tune of 120 million pounds (about 144 million euros). Kigali announced to leave the possibility to waiting migrants “to settle permanently in Rwanda if they wish“.

Still, the reception conditions for asylum seekers raise questions: The Guardian, in particular, has called into question the country’s reception capacities and the security offered to refugees. To AFP, an asylum seeker who fled Iraq testified to his anguish, as a gay man, at being sent to Rwanda. “We suffered and escaped death, we crossed the sea, all to be sent to Rwanda? Kill me or sentence me to death instead of sending me there“.”It’s a death sentence for all refugees“, he added.

As Le Monde points out, the British Home Office itself admitted in a report to having “concernsregarding the treatment of LGBTQ+ people in the East African country.

Prince Charles opposed to the measure?

A British Labor Party executive, Yvette Cooper, took up the example of Australia to denounce Boris Johnson’s measure. She highlighted its cost, recalling that Australian taxpayers had paid a total of 10 billion Australian dollars (more than 6.6 billion euros) to move 3,127 people.

This deal is totally wrong, this deal is totally wrong for so many different reasons“, also denounced for the UN the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. Even Prince Charles, heir to the throne, would have judged in private “appallingthe government’s plan.

Despite the proliferation of appeals attempted by NGOs, British justice finally decided, authorizing the principle of theft. But more than twenty individual appeals had been successful on Monday evening, according to the NGO Care4Calais. A few hours before takeoff, the number of asylum seekers likely to be deported by this first plane was reduced to seven.

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