Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has hit back at critics of the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, saying they have no solutions to offer.
Writing in the Times with the Rwandan Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta, she said they proposed an innovative answer to the “deadly trade” of people-smuggling. No “humanitarian nation” could allow that suffering to continue, they said. It came after Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said there are “serious ethical questions” about the plan.
To push the scheme through, Ms. Patel issued a ministerial direction, meaning she took responsibility for the policy, after her top Civil Servant questioned whether it offered value for money. Ms. Patel and Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, said the global asylum system is “collapsing” under the strain of humanitarian crises and human trafficking.
The Intent of the Transport
The plan to transport some asylum seekers who enter the UK unlawfully to Rwanda, where they can apply to settle, will allow people fleeing persecution to find safety, both the UK and Rwanda Authorities defended.
The two nations added that the UK’s investment in Rwanda, an initial £120m, would help to address the lack of opportunities which drive economic migration.
“We are taking bold and innovative steps and it’s surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions. Allowing this suffering to continue is no longer an option for any humanitarian nation.”The UK and Rwanda Authorities
It also emerged that some refugees in Rwanda will be sent to the UK under the terms of the two Nations’ agreement. A UK government source revealed to the media that it would be supporting Rwanda to resettle “a portion of the most vulnerable refugees”.
The scheme will initially focus mainly on single men arriving in the UK on small boats or lorries. Those sent to Rwanda will be provided with accommodation while their asylum claims are considered. If successful, they will be able to remain in the East African nation.
UK’s Energy Minister, Greg Hands, disclosed to the media that sending migrants to Rwanda would be a “significant deterrent” to people attempting to cross the Channel in small boats. He pointed out that the government is “confident” that the policy would work.
Criticisms Againt the Plan
On Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, became the latest figure to criticise the plan, accusing the UK Government of “subcontracting our responsibilities” and saying it cannot “stand the judgment of God”.
He was joined by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who said the policy was “depressing and distressing”, adding: “We can do better than this.” Opposition Parties and some Conservative Members of Parliament have also criticised the plan, while more than 160 Charities and Campaign Groups called it “shamefully cruel” and urged the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Ms. Patel to scrap it.
Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, described the scheme as “unworkable”, while the Liberal Democrats found that the government is “slamming the door” in the face of refugees, with Scottish National Party’s Ian Blackford, calling it “absolutely chilling”.
Among their concerns was Rwanda’s own human rights record, with the UK having raised allegations of extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture in the East African nation at the United Nations last year (2021). But in their Times article, Ms. Patel and Mr. Biruta said Rwanda “ranks as one of the world’s safest countries” and has already accommodated 130,000 refugees from multiple countries.
While they said the plan would “deter migrants from putting their lives at risk” by making dangerous journeys, a letter from the Home Office’s Top Official noted that evidence for a deterrent effect is “highly uncertain”. Permanent Secretary, Matthew Rycroft, warned the policy has a high cost and would only be value for money if it reduced the number of Channel crossings and other illegal entries to the UK.
While the UK is investing £120m into the “economic development and growth of Rwanda” as part of the deal, the Government averred funding would also be provided to support asylum operations, accommodation and integration which would be “similar to the costs incurred in the UK for these services”.
Reports also suggested that the cost of each migrant sent to Rwanda is between £20,000 to £30,000.
Labour’s Dame Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, in an interview opined that it is “highly unusual” in the Home Office for a ministerial direction to be issued. She said if a policy is drawn up “at the last minute” it can be difficult to prove its monetary value but as the idea of processing asylum seekers abroad had been discussed by the government for some time. She however pointed out that she would be interested to see the “accounting for it”.