UK signs deal with Kigali to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

Boris Johnson targets people-smugglers in effort to control the Channel with Rwanda deal

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Rwanda has signed a controversial agreement with London to welcome migrants and asylum-seekers of various nationalities from the United Kingdom to its soil, Kigali announced on Thursday during a visit by the British interior minister. , Priti Patel. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed “its strong opposition” to the British project.

The United Kingdom announced, Thursday, April 14, a controversial project to send to Rwanda asylum-seekers who have arrived illegally on its territory and entrusted the surveillance of the Channel to the Royal Navy, hoping to deter the crossings of illegal immigrants who do not stop to increase. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised to control immigration, a key subject of the Brexit campaign, the number of very dangerous illegal crossings tripled in 2021 and continues to increase. London regularly criticizes Paris for not doing enough to prevent them.

“As of today (…), anyone entering the UK illegally as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1 will now be able to be relocated to Rwanda,” the Conservative leader announced during a meeting. speech at an airport in Kent (south-east of England). Rwanda will be able to accommodate “tens of thousands of people in the years to come”, he added, saying that the East African country is “one of the safest countries in the world, globally. recognized for its record of welcoming and integrating migrants”. This project, therefore likely to apply to all illegal immigrants wherever they come from (Iran, Syria, Eritrea…), has provoked scandalized reactions from human rights organizations, which denounce its “inhumanity”. . The opposition ruled that the Prime Minister was trying to divert attention after being fined for a birthday party in full confinement.

An agreement at 144 million euros.

Eager to regain popularity before local elections in May, Boris Johnson and his government have been seeking for months to conclude agreements with third countries where to send migrants while waiting to process their file. Such a measure is already applied by Australia with remote islands in the Pacific, a much criticized policy. In addition, Denmark had also considered sending its asylum-seekers to African countries.

Under the agreement announced Thursday, London will initially finance the device to the tune of 120 million pounds sterling (144 million euros). The Rwandan government specified that it would offer those received the possibility “of settling permanently in Rwanda” if they “want to do so”. “Our compassion may be infinite but our ability to help people is not,” said Boris Johnson. The UK Prime Minister added that “those who try to skip the queue or abuse our system will not have an automatic route to settle in our country but will be sent back in a quick, humane way, to a country safe third party or their country of origin”.

Migrants arriving in the United Kingdom will no longer be accommodated in hotels but in reception centers like those existing in Greece, with a first center “opening soon”, announced Boris Johnson.

Migrants exchanged “like commodities”.

As part of this plan, which complements a vast law on immigration currently in Parliament and already criticized by the UN, the government on Thursday entrusts the control of illegal crossings of the Channel to the Navy, equipped with additional equipment. On the other hand, he gave up his plan to push back the boats entering British waters, a measure decried on the French side. By sending asylum-seekers more than 6,000 kilometers from the United Kingdom, the government wants to discourage candidates leaving for the United Kingdom, who are ever more numerous: 28,500 people made these perilous crossings in 2021, against 8,466 in 2020… and only 299 in 2018, according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior.

Amnesty International has slammed a “scandalously ill-conceived idea” that “will cause suffering while wasting huge sums of public money”, also pointing to the African nation’s “dismal human rights record”. For the director general of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton, it is a “cowardly, barbaric and inhumane way to treat people fleeing persecution and war”.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also expressed “its strong opposition” to the British project. “People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad to have their cases processed,” UNHCR said in a statement.

Even within the Conservative ranks, criticism has flared, with MP Tobias Ellwood saying on the BBC that it is a “huge attempt to distract attention” from Boris Johnson’s setbacks in “Partygate”, these parties organized in circles of power during the confinement.

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