The government should hang its head in shame over its Rwanda policy

Offshoring migrants to Rwanda is yet another example of the government’s immoral and ineffective anti-refugee strategy.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 52 people drowned in English Channel waters between 2018-2021. Last year, more than 28,000 people were smuggled across Channel to reach the country. Another 3,000 arrived in the country since January.

This will only get worse with the ongoing war in Ukraine. The generosity of the British public is evident, with people opening their homes to those fleeing Putin’s terror. The home secretary, Priti Patel, has said that the war is “monstrous and unjustified” – and reassured the international community that Britain will be “playing its part in responding to the terrible situation”.

Yet just two months after Ms Patel’s statement, the government has seemingly scrapped this obligation. Worse, the government is evading responsibility by sending Rwandan refugees to Rwanda; an inefficient and immoral policy.


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The scheme will affect all people who have entered Rwanda since January and will also offshore those who arrive by irregular routes to Rwanda. Patel claims that this will discourage people from illegal migration and break the business model of people-smugglers while maintaining a strong immigration system.

This is absurd. Because of the opposition from the department, the home secretary was required to issue a ministerial directive.

On top of this, over 160 charities and campaign groups have written to the government, urging them to scrap the “shamefully cruel” scheme.

The UK government, too, raised allegations of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and “continued restrictions to civil and political rights” to the United Nations just last year. It is unacceptable to know that vulnerable people are being sent to (or essentially threatened to) a country with questionable rights.

Indeed, when a similar policy was adopted by Australia – where migrants were sent to Nauru and Papua New Guinea – 13 people died from violence, medical inattention or suicide in substandard immigration centres.

Furthermore, Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa – putting an immense strain on limited resources and stifling agricultural growth. As the African Union highlighted, Africa already shoulders 85% of the world’s refugees, whereas only 15% are hosted by developed countries.

This scheme is cruel and unjust on three fronts: it ignores our responsibility to the international community; subcontracts this responsibility to an already overwhelmed continent; and attempts to “deter” people with potentially diminished civil rights. Warnings of the scheme’s efficacy notwithstanding, Priti Patel’s adamance is truly baffling.

This unwavering inanity is not surprising. It is merely symptomatic of this government’s ever-growing anti-refugee strategy; evidenced by the Nationality and Borders Bill. It does not consider the context of the current asylum system and its two-tiered, differential treatment for those arriving by irregular means. If the government truly wanted to “save lives”, they would enable safe passage.

It is also controversial to argue that the anti-refugeet strategy will save money. The Permanent Secretary already advised against the costly Rwandan scheme, while The Times have estimated a price tag of £20,000 to £30,000 for each migrant sent to Rwanda.

What’s more, the government has repeatedly dismissed calls to relax the right to work, which would allow asylum seekers to seek employment months after entering the UK. There is an untapped market of skilled and unskilled workers awaiting their asylum applications – all of whom could be contributing to their community and our economy in the meantime.

The scheme is a cynical distraction. Conservatives are trying distract from the cost-of-living crisis, the aftermath partygate, and sexism in Westminster.

Refugees should not be punished for the government’s failures; whether this is a distraction from partygate, or an ill-thought method of fixing the asylum system. Subcontracting our responsibilities can be humiliating, especially in a country that has always emphasized humanitarianism.

People will continue to travel the treacherous Channel crossing until an alternative is found. I would advise the home secretary to act on her own words, and realize that prolonging the settlement of displaced people is “no longer an option for any humanitarian nation”.