Speaking for Ourselves

Drop the Rwanda deal

Drop the Rwanda deal


 Migrant Voice - Drop the Rwanda deal

The grounding of the first deportation flight to Rwanda at the 11th hour was a win for justice. No one was deported: the asylum seekers are still in the UK, where they should be.

Still, it was a very precarious win and we can’t let our guard down, as the government has announced that it will challenge the decision, determined to push through no matter what.

Let’s be clear about what the Rwanda plan really is.

A variety of public figures have called it “appalling.” 25 bishops and archbishops described it as “an immoral policy that shames Britain” in a letter condemning the plan.

The government’s justification of ‘fighting smugglers’ is a fake argument, employed in pursuit of building support for electoral gain.

This week the Home Office staff who are rebelling against what they see as “doing real harm” called out the Rwanda plan as “barbaric”, and having nothing to do with its stated aim: “The laughably absurd idea that it has anything to do with preventing people smugglers is repeated with a straight face.”

The Home Office staff talk of the racism inherent in recent policies, while the plan is also the legacy of long-term racist immigration laws which directly target black and brown people, as a leaked report showed recently. The fact that the Home Office tried to prevent its publication speaks volumes.

Despite everything, the argument that the plan is for stopping smugglers continues to be employed by the government as justification. We don’t believe the argument, and actually, nor does the Home Office itself.

The problem of smugglers is created by the government itself – through the lack of safe, legal routes to the UK for people seeking asylum.

The government can create more safe routes - as it has done with the visa scheme for Ukrainians - and it could expand instead of shutting down or limiting family reunification routes, its Afghan schemes, etc.

86% of the world’s refugees are in neighbouring countries, and the few that do seek the UK have links here. But to reach safety in the UK, people have to make their own way here, putting their lives at risk. Many end up paying smugglers to cross borders.

While more safe and legal routes are necessary, it is important to uphold that there is no legal basis in international law for deeming a person’s need for protection invalid because of their method of entry.

Once they are in the UK, refugees are granted asylum at very high rates, with 75% of applications reaching a positive decision in the year ending March 2022. They do qualify for protection, and the government itself recognises this, by granting it.

The deal with Rwanda is the outsourcing of the asylum system to another country. The government isn’t trying to deter smugglers. It’s trying to deter people from coming here at all. It’s telling them: ‘If you dare seek asylum in this country, we will punish you.’ Rwandans are rightly offended at the negative publicity this has generated for their country. But what this misses is that the UK government has created this image through their plan to use the sending of people to Rwanda as a punishment.

The government must drop the Rwanda deal now, and work to create safe and legal routes for anyone in need of protection in the UK.

Photo credit: by Matt Brown, licensed for use under CC BY-SA 2.0

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