UK Home Secretary Braverman visits Rwanda as legal difficulties with asylum agreement loom large
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman visited Rwanda on Saturday to hold deliberations over a contentious arrangement that would see the UK deport asylum seekers who are thought to have entered the country unlawfully to the African nation.
No one has been deported as of yet, but the plan is beset with legal issues. Braverman’s visit has drawn criticism since she only asked journalists from right-wing publications to tag along with her during her Rwanda trip.
The visit comes as the UK government considers a controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to third countries, including Rwanda, where the asylum claims would be processed. British high commissioner to Rwanda Omar Daair and the permanent secretary of the Rwandan foreign ministry Clementine Mukeka welcomed Braverman as she landed in Kigali.
In a statement released on Friday, Suella Braverman said the “UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership is a ground-breaking approach that will act as a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal journeys such as small boat crossing”.
The plan to transfer asylum seekers to third countries has been criticised by human rights groups and some politicians. They argue that it would violate international law and put vulnerable people at risk.
However, the UK government maintains that such a policy is necessary to deter illegal immigration and reduce the strain on the country’s overstretched asylum system. Rwanda has not publicly commented on the proposal but has signalled a willingness to cooperate with the UK on matters of migration and security.
Under the Rwanda plan, some asylum seekers will be transferred to Rwanda on one-way tickets during the five-year trial in order to apply for asylum there. The first flight was supposed to depart in June but was postponed due to legal issues after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Once deported, people could be given permission to remain in Rwanda as refugees. If not, they can apply to live there on other grounds or ask for asylum in a “safe third nation”.
For the programme, the UK would be giving the Rwandan government £140 million over five years. Flights to Rwanda, food, lodging, access to translators, and legal counsel would all be additional expenses. The annual cost of the UK’s asylum system is £1.5 billion. Spending on hotel rooms for refugees and asylum seekers is close to £7 million a day.
The bill’s impracticality is another worry. The Rwandan government has said that it will only be able to handle 1,000 applications for refuge over the first five years. In comparison, it is projected that in 2022 alone, 45,755 individuals will have entered the UK using tiny boats that crossed the English Channel.
A UK court concluded in December that the Rwanda plan is legitimate. It claimed that the UN Refugee Convention is not violated by the Rwanda plan. On the other hand, the High Court decided on January 16 that some of the parties who lost the case had the right to challenge certain portions of its ruling. As a result, no planes will be permitted to depart for Rwanda while the matter is before the Court of Appeal. No date has been set.
(With inputs from agencies)
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