UK to send Channel asylum seekers to Rwanda


A girl and woman come ashore on the pebbly beach at Dungeness after being rescued by lifeboat volunteers from their dinghy in the English Channel.
People rescued from a dinghy in the English Channel last month, walk up the beach in Dungeness, UK [File: Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

Crossing the Channel in small boats will also be made a crime, and those who are allowed to stay will have to live in strictly-controlled camp-like environments while their cases are considered, the paper said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is under renewed pressure after being fined by police for breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules at a number of parties in his office, is also set to announce new plans to tackle people-smuggling gangs and increase UK operations in the Channel as written by Aljazeera.

Critics say Johnson is trying to divert attention from his own behaviour amid calls for his resignation over the repeated lockdown breaches.

Last year, more than 28,000 people crossed from Europe to the UK, many in small dinghies.

“Before Christmas 27 people drowned, and in the weeks ahead there may be many more losing their lives at sea, and whose bodies may never be recovered,” Johnson will say according to his office. “Around 600 came across the Channel yesterday. In just a few weeks this could again reach a thousand a day.”

Johnson is expected to announce a “long-term plan for asylum”, according to his office.

Having “control” of the UK’s borders was the rallying cry for the ‘No’ campaign in the divisive 2016 referendum on whether the country should stay in the European Union.

Opposition in Parliament

The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill includes a provision to create offshore immigration processing centres for asylum seekers according BBC sources.

The bill is making its way through Parliament, but with the parliamentary session expected to end within weeks, time is running out to pass it into law.

MPs are currently on a break, but when they return, they are due to review a series of amendments, including one about powers to offshore asylum claims.

The government has suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords over the bill, which has come in for criticism and sparked protests.

Labour and the SNP have opposed offshoring asylum claims, and the UN’s high commissioner for refugees said the practice “would be a breach of the UK’s international obligations”.

The plan to process asylum seekers abroad was first reported by the Times newspaper last year.

The newspaper said the Home Office had discussed the proposals with their counterparts in Denmark, which has passed legislation allowing it to relocate asylum seekers to countries outside Europe.

‘More suffering’

Human rights campaigners have been critical of the plan around its impact on the human rights of refugees, the cost of the scheme and questioned whether it will even achieve its aims.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the proposal would not “address the reasons why people take perilous journeys to find safety in the UK”.

He said the scheme would “only lead to more human suffering, chaos and at huge expense of an estimated £1.4bn a year”.

British Red Cross executive director Zoe Abrams said the humanitarian community was “profoundly concerned” about plans to “send traumatised people halfway round the world”.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, described the plan as “shockingly ill-conceived idea” which will inflict further suffering and waste “huge amounts” of public money”.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the policy “would cost the UK taxpayer billions of pounds during a cost of living crisis and would make it harder not easier to get fast and fair asylum decisions”.

Alistair Carmichael, home affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said the UK had a proud history of providing sanctuary to those in need.

“Thousands of families are opening their homes to refugees, but this Conservative Government is slamming the door in their face,” he said.

There was no immediate response from Rwanda. The claims of asylum seekers are processed in the UK.

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