LONDON ( Associated Press) – The British government said on Friday it plans to start putting asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda within weeks, as it defended a deal that helped refugee groups and humanitarian organizations has angered.
Britain and Rwanda announced on Thursday that they have reached an agreement that will allow some people to arrive in the UK on trucks or in small boats as stowaways sent to the 4,000-mile (6,400-km) East African country where their asylum claims will be processed. and, if successful, will remain.
The British government says the plan would discourage people from making dangerous attempts to cross the English Channel and put smugglers out of business.
But critics of the Conservative government said legal and political constraints meant the flights could never take place. He accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of using a title-grabbing policy to divert attention from his political troubles. Johnson is resisting calls to resign after he was fined by police for attending a party in his office in 2020 that broke coronavirus lockdown rules.
Conservative MP Andrew Griffith, a senior adviser to Johnson, said flights to Rwanda could start “in a week or a few months”.
Migration Minister Tom Persglove said rigorous planning was needed to deter people trying to reach Britain in dinghys and other boats from northern France. Last year more than 28,000 migrants entered the UK across the channel, up from 8,500 in 2020. Dozens of people, including 27 people, were killed when a boat capsized in November.
“No one should come in a small boat to come to the United Kingdom,” Pursglove told Sky News. “We have a rich and proud history of providing sanctuary to thousands of people in this country over the years. …. But what we cannot have, and we cannot accept, are people who have lost their lives at the hands of these evil criminal gangs. are giving their lives, and that is why we feel it is important that we take these steps.”
The deal – for which the UK has made an advance payment of 120 million pounds ($158 million) to Rwanda – leaves many questions unanswered, including its final cost and how the participants will be chosen. The UK says children and families with children will not be deported to Rwanda.
Refugee and human rights groups called the plan inhumane, impractical and a waste of taxpayer money. The UN refugee agency urged Britain and Rwanda to reconsider.
“Such arrangements merely shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention,” said Gillian Triggs, the agency’s assistant high commissioner for security. “People fleeing war, conflict and oppression deserve compassion and sympathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.”
Previous plans for “offshore” asylum seekers have been highly controversial.
In 2013, Australia began allowing asylum seekers to reach the country by boat in the small atolls of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, promising that no one would be allowed to settle in Australia. The policy ended the sea route of people smuggling from Southeast Asia, but was widely criticized as a brutal abdication of Australia’s international obligations.
Critics of the UK-Rwanda plan say it is certain to face legal challenges. The prime minister acknowledged on Thursday that it would be challenged in court by “politically motivated lawyers” to “frustrate the government”.
The Law Society of England and Wales, which represents solicitors, punished the government for offering to “mislead to suggest that the legal challenges are politically motivated”.
I. Stephanie Boyce, president of the Society, said: “Legal challenges set in if the government is following its laws.” “If the government wants to avoid losing court cases, it must act under the law of the land.”
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