The UK ‘s plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda topped media and political agenda in the week preceding International Refugee Week. The British authorities suffered a humiliating legal setback to the plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda. The first flight was cancelled minutes before take-off after a late intervention from the European Court of Human Rights. Due to multiple legal challenges, of the over 130 asylum seekers who were served deportation orders by the UK government in the preceding weeks, only a handful were on board before the flight was eventually cancelled.
The Rwanda Plan undermines the spirit of the 1954 Geneva Convention. Measures like this one are basically saying we no longer want to comply with the international legal obligations that comes from being party to the Refugee Convention.
The new Nationality and Borders Bill has made claiming asylum in the UK de facto impossible by criminalising unauthorised entry in the country, while at the same time closing most if not all legal routes into the UK from the main refugee-producing countries (the government calls it closing ‘loopholes’). There are no safe routes to the UK for a refugee from Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen etc. (unless you are one of the few lucky ones that fit the stringent criteria of the resettlement schemes, far exceeding the terms set by the Refugee Convention). The only way for them to reach Britain is through irregular crossings.
One of the challenges the British government has been facing is that when they actually have assessed the cases of people crossing the English Channel by boat, they found out that a large majority were genuine refugees in need of international protection. Thus, unable to continue rehearsing the ‘bogus refugees’ argument, with the Rwanda Plan it is transferring the responsibility to protect people who are likely to have valid cases for international protection four thousand miles away. The Plan is not a solution for the ‘broken British asylum system’ as the Home Secretary claims, but is instead breaking it, undermining in the process the international refugee regime that the UK played such a central role to set up 70 years ago.
I’ve tried to convey these points in a number of media interviews in the last couple of weeks, a few links below:
Africanews/Associated Press, https://fr.africanews.com/2022/06/15/nando-sigona-le-royaume-uni-tente-de-se-debarrasser-des-refugies/
Al Jazeera English, Inside Story, https://www.aljazeera.com/program/inside-story/2022/6/16/whats-behind-the-record-number-of-displaced-people
ZDF Auslandsjournal (Germany) https://www.zdf.de/politik/auslandsjournal/220622-abschiebung-nach-afrika-100.html