Home Secretary Priti Patel Visits Rwanda to sign an Agreement Announced by PM Boris Johnson
“The Home Secretary will set out further details on a world-first migration and economic development partnership signed by the home secretary, Priti Patel, with Rwanda – one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa which is recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants,” Johnson’s office said.
While precise details of the agreement still remain unclear, reports suggest that migrants arriving in Britain via the Channel and other routes considered ‘illegal’ by the British Government will be transported to Rwanda for processing. It is currently unclear whether the government has obtained guarantees of migrant welfare, or whether the ‘camp’ will fall under British jurisdiction. The Times reported that the proposals will only apply to male asylum seekers, who will reportedly be encouraged to remain in Rwanda, in a bid to grow their declining young population.
Speaking at an airport in Kent, the PM stated that anyone found to be entering the UK illegally from the 1st of January may potentially be relocated to Rwanda. “We must ensure that the only route to asylum in the UK is a safe and legal one and that those who tried to jump the queue or abuse our systems will find no automatic path to set them up in our country, but rather be swiftly and humanely removed to a safe third country or their country of origin,” he said.
He said that the relocation plan will not be implemented overnight, while the Rwandan government said Britain will pay Rwanda millions of pounds to bankroll opportunities for migrants, including education, language lessons and skills training.
Opposition parties and human rights groups have warned that Britain’s approach to asylum-seeking is “unworkable and unethical”. Rainbow Migration, which provides support for LGBT+ asylum seekers described the move as “evil” and suggested that the move would “harm queer people seeking sanctuary in countries who see their existence as illegal.”
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, described the controversial move as an “attempt to distract” from the government’s “law-breaking”, referring to the PM amongst others being made subject to a MET Police fine for breaking lockdown rules. SNP’s Ian Blackford told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “This is not the mark of a civilised society. It’s evil.”
According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, 9 in 10 citizens feel that Rwanda is not a “good place for homosexuals”, according to a (Gallup poll). GBT+ Rwandans have said they are routinely fired, evicted and ostracized from their loved ones if they come out.
Johnson announced the new policy during a trip to Kent, where thousands of asylum seekers have sought refuge after making the often dangerous crossings of the English Channel from Calais to Dover. “I accept that these people – whether 600 or one thousand – are in search of a better life; the opportunities that the United Kingdom provides and the hope of a fresh start,” he said. “But it is these hopes – these dreams – that have been exploited. These vile people smugglers are abusing the vulnerable and turning the Channel into a watery graveyard, with men, women and children drowning in unseaworthy boats and suffocating in refrigerated lorries.”
The expected partnership with Rwanda comes as part of the Tories’ efforts to tighten Britain’s borders with its controversial Nationality and Borders bill. The bill, brought forth by Priti Patel, includes proposals to criminalise entering Britain illegally, such as by boat. While relocating migrants to Rwanda specifically was not part of the legislation which ministers proposed in July. They Times claimed that migrants could be sent to either Ghana or Rwanda for processing.
The bill is set to return to the House of Commons on Wednesday for MPs to consider the new amendments voted by the House Of Lords. However, the Refugee Council, a British group striving to support refugees and asylum seekers, urged the British Government to choose “compassion” rather than”shifting their burden”. “The government is choosing control and punishment above compassion despite the fact its own data shows that two-thirds of men, women and children arriving in small boats come from countries where war and persecution has forced them from their homes,” chief executive Enver Solomon told The Guardian.