BRITAIN | Illegal Caribbean migrants to UK May be sent to Rwanda

BRITAIN | Illegal Caribbean migrants to UK May be sent to Rwanda

MONTEGO BAY,  Jamaica, April 16, 2022 - Illegal migrants to the United Kingdom from Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados, could now find themselves being "sent back to Africa" by way of the new arrangements between the United Kingdom and Rwanda where Under the plan, any adult who goes into the UK without authorisation – via train, boat or plane – could be considered for relocation to Rwanda.

However, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR has expressed strong opposition and concerns about the United Kingdom’s plan to export its asylum obligations and urged the UK to refrain from transferring asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda for asylum processing.

UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs says the  “UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards. 

“Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention,” said “People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing,” she says.

According to the British Officials, the strength of each individual’s asylum claim will be taken into account, as well as the way they arrived in the country.Those seeking asylum from Rwanda are not expected to be sent back there, regardless of how they entered the UK.

Once someone is told they are going to be removed, they are given five days’ notice and are able to make representations during that period. Officials say most people in that period have access to legal advice. However, there is no statutory right to appeal.

But once placed on a plane, they will be the responsibility of the Rwandan government and  subject to Rwandan immigration rules as soon as they land. The Rwandan government says they will be encouraged to apply for refugee status, and will have no immediate right to return to the UK.

The UNHCR has urged both countries to re-think the plans. It also warned that instead of deterring refugees from resorting to perilous journeys, these externalization arrangements will only magnify risks, causing refugees to seek alternative routes, and exacerbating pressures on frontline states.

While Rwanda has generously provided a safe haven to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution for decades, the majority live in camps with limited access to economic opportunities. UNHCR believes that wealthier nations must show solidarity in supporting Rwanda and the refugees it already hosts, and not the other way around.

The UK has an obligation to ensure access to asylum for those seeking protection. Those who are determined to be refugees can be integrated, while those who are not and have no other legal basis to stay, can be returned in safety and dignity to their country of origin.

Instead, the UK is adopting arrangements that abdicate responsibility to others and thus threaten the international refugee protection regime, which has stood the test of time, and saved millions of lives over the decades.

The UK has supported UNHCR’s work many times in the past and is providing important contributions that help protect refugees and support countries in conflicts such as Ukraine. 

However, financial support abroad for certain refugee crises cannot replace the responsibility of States and the obligation to receive asylum seekers and protect refugees on their own territory – irrespective of race, nationality and mode of arrival.

While UNHCR recognizes the challenges posed by forced displacement, developed countries are host to only a fraction of the world’s refugees and are well resourced to manage claims for asylum in a humane, fair and efficient manner.

In the meantime, the Guardian is reporting that Home Secretary Priti Patel could face mutiny over plans to process migrants 5,000 miles away in Rwanda after overruling officials to push through the scheme.

Britain has promised Rwanda an initial £120m as part of an “economic transformation and integration fund”, but the UK will be paying for operational costs too. A set amount of funding will be allocated for each migrant, expected to cost between £20,000 and £30,000 a person for the flight to Rwanda, and the first three months of accommodation there.

While declining  to say how much they intend to give per person, ity is expected to be comparable to current processing costs in the UK and cover case workers, legal advice, translators, accommodation, food and healthcare.

A Guardian report says the home secretary issued a rare ministerial direction to overrule concerns of civil servants about whether the scheme would deliver value for money.

“It is only the second ministerial direction – an order enforced by a minister despite objections from a permanent secretary – the Home Office has received in 30 years. The first was to speed up the Windrush compensation scheme before legislation,” the report says.

The Unions have warned that Civil servants could stage mass walk-outs in protest against the new plans.

The civil servants are against the policy on legal and ethical grounds, and are expected to express their distaste over the direction.

General secretary of the FDA trade union Dave Penman, has warned  that officials could demand a transfer from the Home Office or leave the civil service entirely rather than deliver the policy.

This is not the first such deal that the Rwanda Government has entered into. A similar agreement was signed with Israel that lasted from 2014 to 2017. Hundreds of detainees swiftly left the country. Reports claimed many returned to Europe. 

In June 2021, the Danish parliament passed a law allowing the external processing of asylum claims, a move that was questioned by EU authorities at the time. Copenhagen has since been in talks with Kigali, but has not signed an agreement on the transfer of asylum seekers. Lawyers believe that plans to send those claiming asylum to offshore centres like Kigali would breach three articles of the European convention on human rights and three of the articles of the refugee convention. 

It is felt that the United Kingdom’s  arrangements with Rwanda could also be challenged under discrimination legislation if, for example, Ukrainians are seen to be exempt.


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