Why human rights experts are condemning Boris Johnson’s asylum plan

Beginning in 2001, the Australian government sent thousands of incoming asylum seekers to the remote Pacific states of Papua New Guinea, Manus Island and Nauru. Migrants, including children, awaited resettlement decisions in run-down detention centers where they suffered human rights abuses.

Now humanitarian groups fear history will repeat itself as the UK begins its own migrant offshoring policy to end dangerous trade routes, including crossing the English Channel by boat. The UK specifically cites the Australian example as “successful” and plans to divert certain asylum seekers 4,000 miles south to Rwanda – a decision that some human rights observers say could also affect Ukrainian war refugees.

This was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday UK-Rwanda Migration Partnership, a plan that would require the country to send some arriving migrants to Rwanda as part of a new package designed to ease alleged pressures on Britain’s asylum system while boosting Rwanda’s economic development. The government justified this with a humane means of curbing dangerous and illegal people smuggling. “Anyone entering the UK illegally may be eligible,” reads the Home Office’s official factsheet, adding that those who can afford to pay for the smuggling routes are not, by definition, needy asylum seekers and ” Economic migrants” from security are countries.

prime minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech at Lydd Airport in Dover, England on April 14, 2022. The UK government announced it will process asylum seekers in Rwanda, 4,500 miles away in the UK, to crack down on illegal migration. [Photo: Matt Dunham/WPA Pool/Getty Images]

But human rights experts immediately condemned the plan, arguing that it would not solve the alleged problem and would tarnish Britain’s standing on the world stage. “It’s definitely a very cruel, unethical and inhumane arrangement,” he says Emily McDonnella refugee advocate at Human Rights Watch UK She says the rhetoric about economic migrants is a myth and cites it two-thirds of people crossing the English Channel asylum is granted on the basis of justified cases. through the very Definition of asylumthere are no illegal asylum seekers. As other countries, notably Denmark, consider similar “externalisation” measures, experts fear the UK plan will trigger a “Race Down” and encourage similar initiatives in other countries.

This model of “migrant offshoring” is not without precedent. The Australian version sparked an international outcry, human rights groups noted multiple abuse cases, sexual threats and assaults, as well as self-harm and suicides due to prolonged detention and dire conditions; 51% of reported abuse in Naura involved children. The US had previously deported Haitian immigrants to Guantanamo Bay from 1991.

Last year Denmark, which has taken a particularly tough stance on refugees – and has attempted to send some back to Syria – has approved a bill that would allow asylum seekers to be relocated to countries outside the EU. It also signed a letter of intent with Rwanda to explore a possible agreement. And just this week there were echoes of this model of responsibility shifting in the US as governor of Texas Greg Abbott began broadcasting Undocumented migrants on chartered buses to Washington, DC.

While most people seeking asylum in the UK are from Iran; Iraq; Eritrea in northeast Africa; Syria; and Albania McDonnell believes war refugees from Ukraine could also meet the same fate. The UK did not waive visa requirements for Ukrainians, and they existed big delays in their processing. Steve Valdez-Symonds, director of refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International UK, agrees that the policy could theoretically apply to Ukrainian asylum-seekers as well. “Since Ukraine’s visa systems aren’t working, it’s a real possibility,” he said via email.

Any asylum seeker who has arrived in the UK without prior authorization after January 1st will be subject to screening. If officials believe they are from a “safe country” and consider them inadmissible to enter the UK, they could be sent back to the country they came from or to Rwanda. Once there, Rwandan officials will process their application and, if deemed “in real need,” be granted permission to settle the land. As of now there is no cap on the number of people transferred and the first flights will depart in the coming months. 2021, more than 24,000 asylum seekers entered UK detention centers, a 65% increase on 2020.

Johnson called The £120m ($157m) scheme is an “innovative approach, fueled by our collective humanitarian momentum and made possible by the Brexit freedoms”. He claimed it had the broader aim of preventing human trafficking, which was turning the English Channel into a “watery graveyard”.

A group of people believed to be migrants are being taken aboard the Border Force vessel Searcher to Dover, Kent, following an incident involving a small boat in the English Channel. Boris Johnson has put the Navy in command of the English Channel as he defended plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, making the crossing in small boats. Picture date: Thursday April 14, 2022. [Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Images/Getty Images]

Announcing its own deal, the UK applauded Rwanda’s handling of migrants, mentioning 130,000 people it had resettled from the DRC and Burundi. Human Rights Watch claims otherwise, who claims that under his authoritarian government, “torture is commonplace in official and unofficial detention centers”. In 2018, Rwandan police killed 11 Congolese refugees for protesting food ration cuts. McDonnell points to a crucial irony: “The UK has only been granting asylum to Rwandans fleeing Rwanda for the last year,” she says. “How can you send people to a country that is like this [has] a human rights record that the UK itself has criticized?”

For the Rwandan government, the agreement agrees with her Vision 2050 Target, an economic development proposal under which Rwanda aims to become a middle-income country by 2035 and a high-income country by 2050. According to a Rwandan news agency Kigali Today PressBritish investment will contribute to some of the plan’s goals, including job training, support for small businesses and climate-resilient measures, all said to benefit both Rwandans and asylum seekers.

But McDonnell says that once in Rwanda, asylum seekers will remain “in a state of limbo”. They are being held in detention centers in Kigali, the first of these Sky news reported has a shared dining area, 12 toilets and 5 showers for approximately 100 people who will reside in 12 x 12 foot bedrooms. They will apparently stay for three months while their cases are processed (although some have stayed in Australia for years). “These people will never have the chance to come to Britain and seek protection,” says McDonnell.

The plan is likely to be subject to legal challenges, as was the case with Australia violations of human rights, including the right to life, degrading treatment and arbitrary detention. “Offshore detention and processing in this form is appalling, no matter where it takes place,” says McDonnell. “It goes against the spirit of the refugee law, which says that we should all share responsibility for refugees – instead of just deporting them to other countries.” Why human rights experts are condemning Boris Johnson’s asylum plan


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