Boris Johnson announcing the government's policy to process migrants in Rwanda

The UK government today formally announced its plans to process migrants arriving in the UK in Rwanda. The Home Office is set to agree a trial which would see some migrants arriving in the UK from the English Channel immediately deported to Rwanda for ‘processing’.

The trial would see the UK government pay £120m to the government of Rwanda, and the government has indicated it would see mostly single men who arrive in the UK on boats or lorries being transported to the country.

Under the proposals, Rwanda would assess asylum claims and successful applicants would be resettled in Rwanda, rather than the UK.

The country most widely known to use a system of offshore processing of migrants is Australia. The Refugee Council of Australia has documented major issues in the Australian system, which has included the deaths of 13 people and numerous allegations of abuse.

The announcement has been met with widespread condemnation from migrant rights groups and refugee organisations.

The chief executive of Refugee Action Tim Naor Hilton has branded the proposed scheme “cowardly, barbaric and inhumane”. He said,

This grubby cash-for-people plan would be a cowardly, barbaric and inhumane way to treat people fleeing persecution and war

Similar views have been expressed by Zoe Gardner of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. Speaking to the BBC, Gardner said,

This policy is despicable. It’s an absolute disgrace. The people of this country have shown time and again that we are warm and we are welcoming and we want to help refugees fleeing persecution.

Alongside those condemning the policy are a number of high profile Greens.

Scottish Greens human rights spokesperson Maggie Chapman MSP described it as a “repressive and authoritarian proposal”, and called the Home Office “institutionally racist”. Chapman said,

Even by the terrible standards of the institutionally racist Home Office, this would be a disgraceful new low. It is a repressive and authoritarian proposal that rejects the fundamental principle and right of asylum.

Time and again, Downing Street has fanned the flames of racism and shown a total disregard for the rights and lives of people fleeing conflict zones and awful circumstances. It has dehumanised and criminalised them, and now it wants to offshore its responsibilities by sending them thousands of miles away to be ‘processed’ by a regime with an appalling human rights record.

This is part of the same racist worldview and policies that have led to the Windrush scandal and deportation vans doing dawn raids in our communities. It comes from a government that is hellbent on ripping up the Refugee Convention.

Future generations will look at the way successive UK governments have treated human beings with horror and disgust. This dreadful proposal must be stopped. It is time to end the hostile environment for good.

Co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Carla Denyer branded the policy “cruel”, and said “at root it is a failure to recognise the humanity of those fleeing for their lives.” Meanwhile, Green MP Caroline Lucas described Boris Johnson’s speech announcing the policy as “disgusting”, and accused him of “multiplying human misery” and “degrading our country’s values”.

Defending the policy, the Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart has said,

What we are proposing with the government of Rwanda is to improve the chances to break up the criminal gangs, to reduce the horrible level of exploitation and to improve the chances for people who have crossed half the world at huge emotional and personal and financial expense.

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Image credit: YouTube screengrab