Britain has signed a deal with Rwanda to send some asylum seekers to the East African country. Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the move as "an innovative approach made possible by Brexit freedoms."
A survey by the Daily Mail revealed the majority of British citizens support the government's move. The survey found that majority of Labour voters are also in support of the deal. In a poll of more than 1,000 adults, 47 percent of all voters support the idea while just 26 percent are against it. Comparing these statistics with those who voted Labour at the last election, 39 percent support the move while 36 percent do not.
There was also a divided opinion over the cost of the scheme, as some view the plan to be economically viable and others raised objections regarding it. Conservative former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell commented that it would be rather economical to house the refugees in Ritz instead of Rwanda as the deal is sure to bring in 'eye-watering' costs for taxpayers. At the same time Home Office minister Tom Pursglove states that the deal will save Britain money in the 'longer term'.
A source from Home Office responded by stating that "the officials are clear that deterring illegal entry would create significant savings." Further adding that it would "not be correct to let a lack of precise modelling delay a policy aimed at reducing illegal migration, saving lives, and breaking the business model of smuggling gangs."
Since the 2020 pandemic many other routes had to be shut down which led to the migrants using northern France as a starting point to reach Britain, by hiding in trucks or ferries or in small boats as arranged by smugglers. Last year saw more than 28,000 people entering the UK in boats, up from 8,500 in 2020.
As per the multimillion dollar scheme, asylum seekers who arrive in Britain on boats or lorries will be flown to Rwanda, where they will be assessed for eventual resettlement. The British government announced on Friday that they may begin the one way flights to the East African country in the coming weeks.
The Associated Press reported that the British government has paid the Rwandan government Â£120 million for accommodation and integrating the migrants as part of the scheme, which will last for approximately five years. On Thursday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel at a news conference in Kigali, Rwanda's capital, said that individuals relocated to Rwanda "will be given the support including up to five years of training, integration, accommodation, health care, so that they can resettle and thrive."
Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta adds that the agreement seeks to ensure "that people are protected, respected, and empowered to further their own ambitions and settle permanently in Rwanda if they choose."
While the aim of the scheme as per Patel has been to bring about an improvement in the British Asylum system, critics have accused Prime Minister Johnson of using this issue to divert attention from a scandal over government gatherings that breached lockdown rules.
Human Rights organizations and Refugee charities continue with their criticism by warning against the exploitation that the vulnerable will be subjected to in Rwanda as Prime Minister insists repeatedly that the East African nation has transformed completely in the last two decades.
UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, said in a statement, "UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum-seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards." Human Rights Watch flagged "Rwanda's appalling human rights record".
Although it is still not clear what the criteria for making the relocation decisions would be but the British government stated that decisions will take into consideration the use of "illegal or dangerous routes" adopted by the migrants to reach Britain and will not be based on their country of origin. Not all such arrivals will be deemed suitable to be sent to Rwanda and children will not be sent to the East African country.