The United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees has again dismissed the British Government’s proposal to process UK-bound asylum seekers in Rwanda, as “all wrong”. Filippo Grandi was describing the offshore deal between the two countries that appears set to have started sending third-country nationals to the East African nation as early as Tuesday.
Central to the agreement, anyone landing in the UK illegally is liable to be given a one-way ticket for processing and resettlement in Rwanda. Judges in London rejected a last-ditch effort by human rights groups and campaigners to stop the transfers as part of a plan the UN Refugee Chief described as “catastrophic”.
As part of the initial $148 million deal with Rwanda, Britain will dispatch some migrants who arrived illegally by dangerously crossing the English Channel in small boats from Europe in what the conservative government believes is a strategy to stem their flow and undermine people-smuggling networks.
But UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi disagrees.
Grandi conceded that Rwanda has a strong track record in support of refugees, having taken in tens of thousands Congolese and Burundians but added that what was now being expected of the East African nation was a completely different set of circumstances.
He insists that this should be a bilateral issue between the UK and respective European countries from where these migrants transmit to the UK’s territory with the Refugee Agency offering to provide guidance.
“This makes my work, our work very difficult. There are countries taking in millions of refugees. I’m not talking about the Ukrainians. I’m talking about countries in Africa. You know, I spoke to the president of Costa Rica the other day, 150 000 Nicaraguans. I was in Cameroon not long ago. They host hundreds of thousands of people from the Central African Republic. And more may come. And what am I going to tell them if they say, you know, a rich country like the UK is sending them abroad, I’ll do the same. I’ll close my border. I say, you know, I want to save them from a dangerous journey and they can go to another country. The precedent that this creates is catastrophic.”
Refugee charity Care4Calais said in a statement that of the 113 people they were working with, only ten still had documents indicating they’d be sent on Tuesday, 13 June while adding that a further seven individuals appeared to have removal documents but that they didn’t know who those individuals were.
For its part, the UK Government insists the policy is needed to dismantle the model of gangsters charging would-be-migrants thousands of dollars to undertake the perilous crossing from France to the UK. A full hearing to determine the legality of the UK policy is set to be heard in July.
In the video below, SABC Correspondent Laura Makin-Isherwood reports that the UK has pledged to invest $150 million in Rwanda’s growth and economic development: