British Home Secretary Suella Braverman arrived in Rwanda on Saturday to discuss a controversial agreement This provides for the UK to deport asylum seekers deemed to have entered the African nation illegally.
The program is in legal trouble – no one has been deported yet – and Braverman’s visit drew criticism when she invited journalists from right-wing titles to accompany her, excluding liberal ones.
Braverman landed in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, where she was greeted by Permanent Secretary of the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Clementine Mukeka, and British High Commissioner for Rwanda, Omar Daair. She later visited a housing estate that will house migrants in the future.
The trip comes 11 months after the UK government outlined its plan to send thousands of migrants believed to have entered the country illegally to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed.
The government argues the program aims to disrupt smuggling networks and deter migrants from making the dangerous sea voyage from France across the English Channel to England.
The plan, which would see the UK pay Rwanda $145 million (£120 million) over the next five years, was met with backlash from NGOs, asylum seekers and a public sector union who questioned its legality, which was caused the government to postpone its execution.
No flights have yet taken place after the first scheduled flight to Rwanda in June at the eleventh hour due to a intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), followed by months of legal challenges that have since stalled the program.
Ahead of her departure, Braverman reiterated her commitment to the program, saying it would “act as a powerful deterrent to dangerous and illegal travel,” the PA reported.
But Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the charity Freedom from Torture, told CNN it was “deeply misguided”.
“Politics of deterrence doesn’t work when you’re trying to target people fleeing torture, war and persecution,” Sceats said.
She added that the decision to invite only pro-government media to the trip “confirms that they have even stopped pretending to speak to the whole country about this issue.”
The UK government has made stopping migrants arriving at its shores in small boats a top priority.
The Illegal Migration Bill, currently being debated in Parliament, gives the government the power to deport anyone who enters the UK illegally. In many cases, there are no safe and legal routes to the UK, leaving many asylum seekers only able to enter illegally.
Under the bill, people arriving in Britain “cannot have their asylum claims assessed, even if they are refugees from war-torn societies,” said Alexander Betts, director of the University of Oxford’s Center for Refugee Studies.
Instead, they face immediate deportation either to their country of origin or to a third country like Rwanda.
However, there are concerns that the proposed law is unlawful.
“When you open the bill, there’s a big red flag on the first page that says ‘This may violate the European Convention on Human Rights,'” Betts told CNN.
He added that the proposed law is of “historic importance” as it amounts “to a liberal, democratic state abandoning the principle of the right to asylum”.
The United Nations Court of Human Rights has warned that the bill, if passed, would constitute a “clear violation” of the Refugee Convention.
There are also concerns that the bill is unworkable. The Rwandan government has specified that it can only process 1,000 asylum seekers in the first five years.
In contrast, there are 45,755 people estimated to have crossed the English Channel to Britain in small boats in 2022 alone.
Source : www.cnn.com