Friday, September 30, 2022

Human rights groups outraged by Britain’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

Human rights groups outraged by Britain's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech at Lyd Airport in England on April 14. Britain says it has struck a deal with Rwanda to send some asylum seekers to the central African country, a proposal that has been condemned by opposition politicians and refugee groups. ,Matt Dunham / The Associated Press

Under a new plan from the British government, thousands of asylum seekers who cross the English Channel on small and often impoverished boats will be detained and traveled more than 6,500 kilometers on a one-way ticket to Rwanda.

Immigrants who arrive in the UK without permission – including some who have arrived as of 1 January this year – will no longer be allowed to remain in the country while they await the results of their cases. Under the plan announced on Thursday, they will instead be sent to the African country, where their claims will be processed. Some could have been resettled there.

Critics, including refugee experts and human rights groups, say the plan will inflict new suffering on asylum seekers and expose them to more abuse in an authoritarian country whose security forces have killed refugees in the past.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a speech that the plan would “become a new international standard in addressing the challenges of global migration and people trafficking.” He described Rwanda as a “dynamic” country, one of the safest and fastest growing economies in the world, with the potential to resettle thousands of people in the coming years.

More than 28,000 people crossed the English Channel in small boats to reach Britain last year – more than three times the number the previous year. About 600 people crossed on Thursday alone and that number could soon reach 1,000 a day, Mr Johnson said.

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said in a statement that His government is building “a safe and sound haven” for anyone seeking asylum. He said the British plan would bring with it about $200 million in British investment in education and training for Rwandans and expatriates.

But refugee groups, human rights advocates and UN officials swiftly condemned the plan. He called it a violation of international law and a serious threat to the international system of refugee protection, which has saved millions of lives in the past.

Gillian Triggs, assistant high commissioner to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said in a statement that those fleeing war and persecution “should not be traded as commodities and transferred abroad for processing.”

He said the refugee agency strongly opposes the British plan. “Such an arrangement simply shifts asylum responsibilities, evades international obligations and is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention,” she said.

Instead of deterring refugees from dangerous travel across the English Channel, the new approach will only “increase the risk” by forcing refugees to seek alternative routes, she said.

Human Rights Watch said In a statement that the British plan was “brutal” and would prove ineffective and illegal. The group said Australia’s similar system of offshore processing for asylum seekers has caused severe abuse and “extreme human suffering” over the past eight years, with many trapped in indefinite detention, leading to suicide and self-harm. There has been an epidemic.

Many experts ridiculed Mr Johnson’s picture of Rwanda as a safe country with endless capacity to accept refugees. In fact, he said, Rwanda is one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries, heavily dependent on foreign aid, with a long history of persecution of dissidents.

Human Rights Watch said Rwanda has a well-documented record of human rights violations, including nonjudgmental killings, suspicious deaths in custody, torture, unlawful detention and abusive prosecutions, often targeting dissidents.

In 2018, the organization noted, Rwandan security forces killed at least 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who were protesting cuts in food rations. He then arrested another 60 refugees and prosecuted them for “spreading misinformation”.

In addition, Rwandan authorities have shown their low opinion of refugee laws by abducting Rwandan refugees abroad and bringing them home to face trial and abuse, Human Rights Watch said. It said there are credible allegations that Rwandan agents have killed Rwandan refugees outside the country.

In one of the most infamous cases, exiled dissident Paul Rusebagina – the protagonist of Hotel Rwanda Film – Seduced on an airplane in Dubai and deported against his will to Rwanda, where he is put on trial and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The British government itself has expressed concern over Rwanda’s record of abuse. Last year it told the UN Human Rights Council it was concerned about “continuing restrictions on civil and political rights and media freedom” in Rwanda. It called for an independent investigation into allegations of nonjudicial killings, custodial deaths, forced disappearances and torture.

Human trafficking is another long-standing concern in Rwanda. A US State Department report last year said Rwanda did not meet minimum standards for the elimination of smuggling. “The government detained thousands of potential victims in district transit centers without conducting adequate screening,” it said.

Recent history suggests that asylum seekers who are deported to Rwanda may be subjected to abuse. Under an agreement between the Israeli and Rwandan governments in 2013, thousands of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers were deported from Israel to Rwanda. Scholars who later interviewed some asylum seekers found that the Rwandan authorities confiscated their travel documents as soon as they landed, transferred the refugees to a protected hotel, prevented them from leaving, and granted them asylum. refused permission to apply for Because they lacked identification documents, they were exposed to robberies and arrests, and many fled to Rwanda on dangerous journeys in search of better homes.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, director of refugee and migrant rights for the British branch of Amnesty International, said the British government’s plan was “shockingly misconceived” and would victimize asylum seekers while wasting vast amounts of public money.

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