Britain plans to send migrants to Rwanda in a tougher asylum situation

  • The policy targets channel migration in small boats
  • Thousands could be sent to Rwanda under Johnson’s deal
  • Policy faces legal challenges but will be implemented – M
  • Opposition says move ‘vulgar, impractical and immoral’

DONGINESS, England/Kigali, April 14 (Reuters) – Britain could send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda for resettlement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday, embarking on a tougher approach to breaking down human smuggling networks and stemming the flow of migrants through them. the channel.

Concerns about immigration were a big factor in the 2016 Brexit vote, and Johnson was pressured to make good on his promise to “take back control” of Britain’s borders, but his plan was met with swift criticism from the opposition and charities.

“We must make sure that the only way to get asylum in the UK is safe and legal,” Johnson said in a speech in Kent, southeast England, where thousands of migrants landed in small boats on the shores of the Channel last year.

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“Those who try to jump the queue or abuse our systems will not automatically find a way to be placed in our country, but will be transported quickly and humanely to a safe third country or their country of origin,” the Conservative Prime Minister said.

He said anyone who arrived in Britain illegally since January 1 could now be transferred to Rwanda in East Africa, which would disrupt the business model of the people-smuggling gangs.

“The deal we made has not been determined and Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the coming years,” he said.

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The plan drew heavy criticism from opposition parties, with Home Secretary Priti Patel and Labor counterpart Yvette Cooper saying it was costly, “impractical and immoral”.

Concerns have also been raised about Rwanda’s human rights record, a record the British government itself registered last year.

Johnson said Rwanda was “one of the safest countries in the world,” adding however that the risk of it ending up in the country would prove to be a “significant deterrent” over time.

Patel signed the partnership agreement in Kigali on Thursday, and presented it at a joint press conference with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Perrota.

Birota said Rwanda’s recent history has given it “a deep connection to the plight of those who seek safety and opportunity in a new land”. He added that Rwanda has already accepted nearly 130,000 refugees from many countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Afghanistan and Libya.

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabier said the country is hospitable but that its internal problems must first be resolved.

Johnson said the plan would face legal challenges, but said the partnership was “fully compatible” with international legal obligations. The government will contribute an initial amount of 120 million pounds ($158 million).

Rikiti boats

A government minister said the plan focused on unmarried young men. “This is mainly about male economic migrants,” Minister of State for Wales Simon Hart told Sky News. “There are a different set of issues with women and children.”

Opposition MPs said Johnson was trying to deflect attention from renewed calls for him to resign after he was fined by police on Tuesday for attending a rally on his birthday in June 2020 when social mixing was prohibited under COVID-19 rules introduced by his government. Read more

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Last year, more than 28,000 migrants and refugees from continental Europe crossed into Britain. The arrival of migrants on rickety boats has been a source of tension between France and Britain, especially after 27 migrants drowned when their boat blew up in November. Read more

“About 600 crossed the canal yesterday. In just a few weeks that could again reach a thousand a day,” Johnson said.

He said the new approach would see the Royal Navy take over operational command from the Canal Frontier Force, and Greek-style shelters would be opened in Britain.

The head of an advocacy group for refugees said the scheme violated the principle of giving asylum seekers a fair hearing on British soil.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told BBC Radio: “I think it’s a little unusual for government to be so obsessed with control rather than on efficiency and compassion.”

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Written by Paul Sandel, Kylie McClellan, and Michael Holden; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Catherine Evans, Thomas Janowski and Gareth Jones

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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