Under new government plans, certain asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via the English Channel will be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda. If the proposal is approved by Parliament, those who are granted refugee status will be given full rights and residency in Rwanda. The Labour Party are clear that we will be opposing these plans when MPs return next week. They are not only inhumane but morally wrong
This is a desperate announcement from a government that has run out of road and is simply trying to distract from its own sleaze and illegality.
Aside from being grossly unworkable and unethical, Priti Patel’s plan is extortionate. Australian Refugee Council offshoring figures show 3127 people were sent to Papua New Guinea/ Nauru since 2013 at cost to Australian taxpayer of AUS$10bn.
That’s £1.7m per person. Home Office claims current cost of processing asylum per person in UK is £12k.That would make offshore processing over a hundred of times more expensive. It would mean the cost to the UK taxpayer of sending people to Rwanda would be billions and a complete waste. Those billions should be invested in making the Home Office for purposes to help those in need.
This is yet another distraction from the Government, given the scandals they’ve been embroiled in recently.
We are in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis that the government is failing to ease, and many can ill-afford their rising bills and the hike in National Insurance. Somehow, they have miraculously found £120million to ship the first refugees off to Rwanda.
Delays and incompetence on the Home Office’s part over the last 18 months has created backlogs and uncertainty for many, and this policy will do very little to abate what is a government department in disarray.
According to well-respected NGOs and charities like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), Rwanda has an extremely concerning record of human rights abuses, including concerns about torture and abortion rights.
Amnesty International’s world report for 2021/22 highlighted concerns about the violation of basic human rights such as freedom of expression, where a free press does not exist, and journalists are controlled or targeted.
Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said that “authoritarianism and censorship are likely to continue for the foreseeable future”, due to the oppressive rule of President Paul Kagame.
The evidence couldn’t be clearer, this is a dangerous policy that puts lives and risk and hurts the public purse.
Labour strongly opposes this plan, and we will be taking every opportunity once Parliament returns from recess to scrutinise the Government and call for them to U-turn.
We need much stronger security and co-operation to stop crossings, tackle vile people smuggling and prevent awful loss of life in the channel. That means proper action working with Europol, the French police and other police forces and it starts with a strong working relationship with French counterparts and others in Europe.
The Home Secretary has said that this new Rwanda deal will help to break “people smuggler’s deadly business model” however in December, I voted for an Opposition amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill to make it a crime to advertise people-smuggling routes online. Disappointingly, the Government rejected this and whipped its MPs to vote against it.
I will continue to press the Government to drop this policy and work towards practical, ethical, and workable policies to process and accommodate asylum seekers fairly and promptly as well as pressing them to work constructively with our international partners to create safe routes, stop lives being lost and prevent criminal gangs profiting from dangerous crossings.
Labour has been pushing the government to negotiate a new security and migration agreement involving safe returns, safe family reunion routes and security cooperation. Ministers promised for years that they would get returns agreements in place with EU countries, but they have none And Labour has been pushing for the government to establish safe and legal routes too, including a Dubs scheme for family reunions. But even in the face of a refugee crisis in Europe, the Government is still failing to listen.
Finally, we would sort out the chaos and delays in the Home Office under Priti Patel so that asylum decisions are taken much faster, and the backlog is cleared. The only reason asylum seekers are in hotels is because Home Office decision making has collapsed, and the backlog has soared. It is shameful that under Priti Patel the Home Office has become so poor and slow at taking asylum decisions they are now asking Rwanda to do it instead.
Given everything this current government is doing we need them replaced as quickly as possible and that’s what we are all working on.