UK repatriates first batch of asylum seekers to Rwanda

Thursday, May 19th, 2022 07:07 | By
Passengers board a RwandAir flight at Kigali International Airport in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, Aug. 1, 2020. (Xinhua)

The United Kingdom will send the first batch of asylum seekers to Rwanda in the coming days, a month after a deal to resettle illegal migrants was signed with the East African country.

Under the scheme for which Kigali will be paid $160 million, asylum seekers arriving on small boats across the English channel from France will immediately be transferred to Rwanda, where their paperwork will be processed.

In an interview with a local daily, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that 50 people who had arrived illegally in the country after crossing the Channel had been informed that they would be flown to Rwanda.

Those affected have between 7 and 14 days to file objections. The policy targets migrants who entered the country after January 1, 2022.

The deal has been the subject of intense criticism by charities, refugee rights organisations and activists.

Activists say the arrangement breaches the 1951 Refugee Convention, a United Nations treaty that stipulates that signatory states must not impose penalties on asylum seekers and refugees ‘on account of their illegal entry or stay’. Others have pointed To Rwanda’s own questionable human rights record.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has urged the UK and Rwanda to reconsider the arrangement.

Both London and Kigali have defended the deal as a humane solution to global migration challenges. They also say that the arrangement is necessary to deter human trafficking.

Aid agencies in Britain say some asylum seekers have gone into hiding for fear of being sent to Rwanda, where they will be resettled.

In the £120million partnership deal between the United Kingdom and Rwanda that was signed last month, people who cross into the UK illegally will be transferred to Rwanda, where their paperwork will be processed.

The British Red Cross and the Refugee Council have raised an alarm that the threat of transfer to Africa has seen some asylum seekers disappear from hotels while young people resort to self-harming and others attempt suicide, the Dailymail reports.

For fear of being enrolled in the resettlement programme in Rwanda, some asylum seekers have even declined to seek medical support, the agencies say.

The agencies’ report comes a day after Priti Patel confirmed the first batch of illegal migrants had been handed official confirmation that they would be a test case for the controversial programme.

It is not clear the number of asylum seekers that make this first batch.

The deal which was first made public in April this year has received a lot of criticism with UK opposition politicians and refugee groups describing it as inhumane.

However, British Home Secretary, Priti Patel has defended the plans as a means of clamping down on migrants making the perilous journey across the Channel in small boats.

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