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Rwanda migration policy breaches international law, says UN refugee agency

15 Apr 2022 5 minute read
Boris Johnson. Picture by Kuhlmann /MSC (CC BY 3.0 DE).

The UK Government’s controversial plans to send migrants who arrive in Britain to Rwanda is “unacceptable” and a breach of international law, the UN’s refugee agency said.

The Government announced yesterday that it plans to provide certain asylum seekers, including those crossing the Channel in small boats, with a one-way ticket to Rwanda, where they will have the right to apply to live in the African country.

Gillian Triggs, an assistant secretary-general at the UNHCR, said the agency “strongly condemns outsourcing the primary responsibility to consider the refugee status”, as laid out in the scheme put forward by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Troubling

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, the former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission said the policy was a “troubling development”, particularly in the light of countries taking in millions of Ukrainian refugees displaced by the conflict in eastern Europe.

Put to her that Australia had effectively deployed a similar tactic to cut migration numbers, Ms Triggs said: “My point is, just as the Australian policy is an egregious breach of international law and refugee law and human rights law, so too is this proposal by the United Kingdom Government.

“It is very unusual, very few states have tried this, and the purpose is primarily deterrent – and it can be effective, I don’t think we’re denying that.

“But what we’re saying at the UN refugee agency is that there are much more legally effective ways of achieving the same outcome.”

She said attempting to “shift responsibility” for asylum seekers arriving in Britain was “really unacceptable”.

Ms Triggs pointed out that Israel had attempted to send Eritrean and Sudanese refugees to Rwanda, but that they “simply left the country and started the process all over again”.

“In other words, it is not actually a long-term deterrent,” she added.

Cruel

Welsh politicians lined up to slam the proposals following confirmation of the plans by Boris Johnson and his Home Secretary Priti Patel.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said “The UK Government’s plans to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda is cruel and inhumane.

“This is not the way to treat people seeking safety and sanctuary.”

Liz Saville Roberts, the leader of Plaid Cymru’s Westminster group, said: “This government have the humanitarian instincts of hyenas.

“Tossing red meat to rabid supporters No 10 desperate for a figleaf for PM’s shredded reputation.”

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart also came under fire after defending the scheme in a series of media interviews.

Mr Hart, the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire also said the plan has the potential to ‘break up and deter criminal gangs’ involved in transporting vulnerable people to the UK.

Humane

He claimed transporting migrants to Rwanda would “reduce the horrible level of exploitation and improve the chances for people who have crossed half the world at huge emotional and personal and financial expense”.

He told Sky News: “We have a very good relationship with Rwanda: It’s an up-and-coming economy, it has got a very good record with migrants in this particular issue.

“And it’s an arrangement which I think suits both countries very well and provides the best opportunities for economic migrants, for those who have been in the forefront of this particular appalling problem for so long now.

“And I think that this arrangement is a really… it has the potential to be a really good step forward and a really humane step forward.”

When pressed on the fact the president of Rwanda has been accused of human rights abuses on more than one occasion, Mr Hart said: “That is true, but that doesn’t alter the fact that their reputation as far as migrants are concerned, and their economic progress, is phenomenal.”

Disgrace

Reacting to Mr Hart’s comments, Welsh liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said: “Once again Simon Hart has shown he has absolutely no backbone. He should be deeply ashamed of himself for defending this cruel and unnecessary policy, it is truly a disgrace.

“The Conservative Government’s plan to offshore refugees thousands of kilometres from the UK is unbelievably cruel.

“The fact they plan to offshore them to an authoritarian police state with numerous human rights abuses only makes it even more sickening.

“A US Government report into human rights in Rwanda highlights the arbitrary killings carried out by security forces in Rwanda, alongside forced disappearances, the abuse of those in detention and a complete disregard for the rule of law.

Tom Pursglove, the UK minister for justice and tackling illegal migration, said on Friday that the policy was “in line” with the UK’s legal obligations.

Legal challenges

However, he accepted that it would be “difficult” to implement the plan to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda, with the Government braced for legal challenges.

He told Times Radio: “I think what is also really important to make (clear) in dealing with that issue is that, at all times, we act in accordance with our international obligations, the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) and the refugee convention.

“We are absolutely confident that our policies are in line with that and entirely compliant, which by extension would mean that those legal challenges would be without merit.

“But it will be difficult, there will be challenges.”

Mr Pursglove also suggested during broadcast interviews that other countries in Europe were considering emulating the UK’s Rwandan policy, which he described as a “world first”.


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Llinos
Llinos
7 months ago

And Boris breaks yet another law. And the Tories still back him. The UK is getting as bad as Russia. Just as well “our” idiot is not as genocidal as their idiot. Merely an arrogant aristocrat fraudster

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
7 months ago
Reply to  Llinos

Remember all who does needlessly of Covid?

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
7 months ago
Reply to  Llinos

Interest thing genocide. Johnson lifted Covid restrictions the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Kiev said yesterday that between 2,500 and 3,000 Ukrainian military have so far died. In the UK the Covid death toll in these 7 weeks has been 7,498.

Llinos
Llinos
7 months ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Thank you, I had forgotten about the needless deaths from COVID mishandling by “let the bodies pile high” Johnson. Add that to the massive increase in hate crimes and suicides from Brexit rhetoric and Brexit reality and I wonder exactly how many people have died directly as a result of the actions of the Let’s Have Another Party Party.

Gareth
Gareth
7 months ago

I do not think for one moment that this will worry the Tory Gov, as it has said more than once, it is not afraid to ignore and break international law.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
7 months ago

This cruel policy will not stop the people smugglers or people trying to get across the channel. It’s not going to save the tax payer money – £1.3B is to be given to Rwanda on a yearly basis, starting with the £124m already given. The nasty party just sees people seeking refugee status and a better life as just benefit scrounging numbers.And we are not being ‘swamped’ don’t believe the lies spread by the right press.

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

I often find myself disagreeing with you with regard to your critiques of policy. Not here. You are absolutely correct in both substance and focus – positing the notion that this policy will in ANY WAY help remedy the scourge of human trafficking is beyond contemptible. If anything, centralizing a migratory population bound for a Western nation in sub-Saharan Africa may well end up facilitating the phenomenon. Despite there being space for a mature conversation about migration (all forms; legal, illegal, trafficking, refugees and the movement of residents around the island – around 25% of all Welsh residents were born… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
7 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

I agree with you on this issue. The UK government will then become party to this trafficking of people. I have always believed in the freedom to travel and to live in the countries of your choice and hopefully they will all respect democracy, human rights and freedom. The world has to address the inequality, the lack of freedom, democracy and human rights around our own planet that is the cause of refugee movements. Although my wife and I consider ourselves as Welsh, neither of us were actually born in Wales. My parents were Welsh and Scottish and I was… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago

‘The free movement of people” is a vague enough term that almost anyone save the staunchest xenophobe will support if left as a floating term. My position is that Wales is in a tough spot with regards to immigration policy post indy – a small, largely rural nation with coastal cities and aj ancient culture/language that’s held by a (thankfully growing) minority. We need people to come here. The chance for demographic disaster due to an ageing population is very real here. Having said that, there is a real issue in that a tip towards too much “we’re all European”… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by CJPh
Finn
Finn
7 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Do you live in one of Wales’ multicultural areas?

CJPh
CJPh
7 months ago
Reply to  Finn

How is that relevant, may I ask?

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

It is just what one would expect from the heartless Pritti Patel. This government was also supposed to be taking the issue of Climate Breakdown seriously. Have they not spotted the carbon foorprint of flying refugees to Rwanda?

Finn
Finn
7 months ago

Boris & Co. have a far easier and simpler option right on their own doorstep. Why not send all of the arrivals to the ‘Nation of Sanctuary’?

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
7 months ago
Reply to  Finn

‘Nation of Sanctuary’ will be too busy knitting woolly jumpers next autumn? Gwlad should get their act together and become the patriotic and conservative party Cymru needs to get us through the looming crisis brought on by the current parties in power throughout this island.

Last edited 7 months ago by I.Humphrys
Finn
Finn
7 months ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

It would be a perfect time for a party to step in, be it Gwlad, or someone else, to step in and deal with Wales’ very obvious immigration issues, in a rational way. And they wouldn’t need to label themselves ‘right win/conservative’, its just a matter of common sense and necessity. Its a shame that the editors at NationCymru won’t deal with the stories like the one coming out of County Sligo this week, where two men were castrated and beheaded by an immigrant. Ireland is set to receive 200,000 of them. Wales has also been castrated, and is in… Read more »

CapM
CapM
7 months ago
Reply to  Finn

‘two men were castrated and beheaded by an immigrant. Ireland is set to receive 200,000 of them.’

200,000 immigrants or 200,000 serial killers?

Finn
Finn
7 months ago
Reply to  CapM

Good question.

CapM
CapM
7 months ago
Reply to  Finn

And you’ve revealed your true self.

Kurt C
Kurt C
7 months ago

Boris made it clear years ago, to deal with a crisis is to jump to another. That’s his evil premiership summed up by himself. This is Inhumane and disgusting

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago

The attention to Johnsons’ law breaking is focussed on the party penalty notices but then there was breaking the law in a ‘limited way’ over the EU withdrawal agreement and now breaking international law in no limited way with this clear human rights abuse. Never mind just stepping down, when is he stepping into court for his serial offending?

Quornby
Quornby
7 months ago

Hitler contemplated sending the European Jews to Madagascar at one point, no doubt such a policy would have been welcomed by the baying nazi crowd. What are the polls saying about attitudes to this abomination of a policy here?

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

There are so many flaws in this inhumane Tory project of sending migrants 6,000 miles to Rwanda. A country only a year ago was criticised by the Boris Johnson for their human rights violations. Whose population themselves largely live on the breadline with the equiverlent of £1 a day if true What’s not been clarified is this. Those refugees sent. On arrival will they be effectively under house arrest because the facilities featured on the news looked more like a hostels or hotels? Or are the buildings shown merely a facade to cynically give the impression conditions are humane &… Read more »

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