UK's Controversial Plan: Ship Asylum Seekers to Rwanda

Refugee groups and humanitarian organizations are denouncing the plan
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2022 8:48 AM CDT
UK's Controversial Plan: Ship Asylum Seekers to Rwanda
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, England, by the RNLI, following a small boat incident in the Channel, Thursday April 14, 2022.   (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

The British government on Thursday announced a plan under which some asylum-seekers—generally single men—will be put on a one-way flight to Rwanda. It's part of a deal that involves an up-front payment of $158 million being made to Rwanda. Once the asylum seekers arrive in that country, some 4,000 miles from the UK, their asylum claims will be processed; those who are successful may remain. PM Boris Johnson said the plan would stop "vile people smugglers" from making the English Channel a "watery graveyard" and throw a wrench into the business of people smuggling, reports the BBC. The plan would "over time prove a very considerable deterrent," he said.

The AP reports more than 28,000 migrants entered the UK via the Channel in 2021, a staggering jump from the 8,500 who did so in 2020. Johnson said roughly 600 people crossed the Channel on Wednesday alone, and the figure is projected to hit 1,000-per-day within weeks. The New York Times reports nearly two-thirds of those who applied for asylum last year were determined to be "genuine refugees" from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. But there were dozens of deaths along the way, including in this high-profile November tragedy. Refugee groups and humanitarian organizations are casting the plan itself as vile.

The United Nations’ Refugee Agency called on Britain and Rwanda to rethink the deal, saying, "People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing." Critics of the Conservative government say Johnson is just trying to deflect from his own political issues. Others cast the plan as unworkable. The Times reports research into a similar program that saw Israel send asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda found they received inadequate protection there and turned to smugglers to get them to Europe. A top Johnson adviser said the flights could begin "in weeks or a small number of months," though the plan is expected to be challenged in court. (Read more asylum seeker stories.)

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