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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Britain, Rwanda defend plans for asylum seekers at UN agencies

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GENEVA – Britain and Rwanda faced two UN agencies on Thursday who have sharply criticized their controversial plan that expects Britain to send some asylum seekers from Britain to the African country.

In an interview with the Associated Press before meeting with top UN human rights and refugee agencies, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta acknowledged that it was “okay that they are concerned,” adding that the purpose of the discussion was to “make them to bring on board”. Work with both countries.

The head of the UN refugee agency seemed unconvinced, commenting on Twitter.

Under the plan unveiled last month, British officials said they would deport migrants arriving in Britain illegally – often in the form of stowaways or in small boats crossing the English Channel – to Rwanda. There the migrants’ asylum claims will be processed, and if successful, the migrants will stay there.

UN officials and other critics – particularly in both countries – have raised human rights concerns and warned that such a move goes against the International Refugee Convention.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said Britain had seen more than 20,000 people enter illegally in the past year, and stressed that her Conservative government – along with Rwanda – amid the scourge of illegal immigration “resolve global problems”. Looking for new innovative solutions”. She insisted that the plan was about saving the lives of people often taken on treacherous trips by smugglers in an attempt to reach Britain.

“I’m afraid that other organizations and other countries, you know, aren’t coming up with alternatives – and the status quo is no longer acceptable,” she said.

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The meetings come a day after the office of Patel, who hosted Biruta in London, announced that the British government’s intention to relocate to Rwanda was “the first tranche of illegal immigrants without the right to remain in the British now notified”. is”.

Patel declined to specify how many people would be in that first group, how they arrived in the UK, or how many people in total could be deported to Rwanda under the plan, saying “we do not share our operational details”. Huh.”

She lamented “a lot of deliberate misinformation” about people being deported to Rwanda. She also touted her country’s “excellent record of resettling people and hosting migrants and refugees” – noting that 15,000 people were brought to Britain from Afghanistan and 100,000 visas were issued to Ukrainians.

Patel sought to differentiate between legal routes of entry, which Britain welcomes, and approaches by some migrants attempting to enter illegally.

Ministers met with Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who last month – on the same day as the UK Parliament passed a bill on asylum and nationality – called for the UK government’s proposal for a new approach to asylum. expressed regret that “undermines established international refugee protection laws and practices.”

When the program – the Migration and Economic Development Partnership – was announced in mid-April, Grundy’s assistant high commissioner for refugees, Gillian Triggs, stressed that those fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve sympathy, adding: “They should not be traded like commodities. And transferred abroad for processing.”

After Thursday’s meeting, Grandi tweeted that he reiterated his concerns about the deal, adding: “Shifting asylum responsibilities is not the solution.” He said his agency, the UNHCR, “will continue to propose concrete solutions that respect international law.”

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The ministers also met with the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nasif. His office did not comment after Thursday’s meeting.

Last month, the United Nations Human Rights Office tweeted its support for the UNHCR’s position, saying the plan raises human rights concerns – specifically forced return, family separation, “arbitrarily deprivation of liberty” and the possibility of That the cases cannot be assessed on an individual basis. ,

A statement from the British Home Office after meetings in Geneva, which also included visits with diplomats from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, said Rwanda was a “fundamentally safe and secure country”. It added that the partnership scheme will process asylum claims in accordance with the Refugee Convention as well as national and international human rights laws.

Rwanda’s Biruta said the initial plan believed the plan could cover around 30,000 people, but that Rwanda could take in the thousands in any case.

In recent years Rwandan authorities have sheltered hundreds of people seeking asylum as a result of arrangements with Israel, the African Union, the United Nations and others. Many were from Eritrea and Ethiopia, some of whom spent months in detention centers in Libya.

Some people who have been to Rwanda have insisted that the country with a population of 13 million and the most densely populated country in Africa is not a suitable refuge. Rwanda is already home to more than 130,000 refugees from countries such as Burundi, Congo, Libya and Pakistan.

Follow all Associated Press stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.

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