UK continues Rwanda scheme as leadership contest continues

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Monday, 15 August 2022 14:49

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks during a statement on Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda in London, Britain June 15, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Over a hundred migrants and refugees forced to move to Rwanda are now in legal limbo as they fight to remain in the UK. 

As the Tory leadership continues to contest the policy, immigration has now become a hot topic to gain voters as Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak continue to vie for victory.

Sunak has been a big supporter of the government’s controversial Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP), which outsources illegal immigrants to Rwanda for processing and housing them for the foreseeable future. Truss has also been vocal about immigration and she says “we need to have further reforms in the UK to make sure we can really stop illegal immigration”.

Stormy seas

This year more than 20,000 migrants have made the dangerous 20-mile journey from France to Britain across the Channel, one of the most active shipping lanes in the world.

The policy, whilst supported by the Conservative Party, has received backlash from several human rights groups including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, who published an open letter criticising the scheme. Signatories included author and activist Akala and Syrian activist Waad al-Kateab.

The European Court of Human Rights issued injunctions to push the cancellation of the first deportation flight mere hours before it was due to take off in June. In early September, London’s High Court, a coalition of human rights groups and a trade union will argue that the Rwanda policy is ineffective and unethical.

However, the plan has been criticised not only for its ethical failings but its lack of visceral success. So far, Rwanda has only set up one hostel to accept UK arrivals, with a capacity of roughly 100 people, representing 0.35% of all the migrants who arrived in Britain last year.

According to Reuters, a British official said the government was in talks to acquire another three or four hostels in Kigali, but even those would only provide accommodation for about 1.6% of last year’s arrivals.

Protecting the public?

Home Secretary Priti Patel, the driving force behind the scheme, has been hard-nosed about the staunch border policy introduced post-Brexit. She said: “Our Borders Act will make it easier to deport foreign criminals and protect the British public.”

Patel’s biggest argument remains that the introduction of new policies like the MEDP will deter migrants from entering the UK through unsafe methods.

  • According to data by the UNHCR, in 2021, 123,318 people crossed the North African and Mediterranean routes into Europe and 3,130 people died or went missing.
  • In November 2021, in the deadliest incident since the International Organization for Migration started collecting data in 2014, 27 people died crossing the Channel in an inflatable dinghy.

The UK is not the only country outsourcing migrants and refugees to the continent. The idea, pioneered by Australia, has a high success rate which European governments have often pointed out – the country has had next to no illegal sea arrivals since 2013. Denmark has signed a similar agreement on deportations with Rwanda but has not yet sent any migrants to the country.

In a House of Commons Committee report, the government responded to critics of the policy, stating, “irregular migration across the English Channel, is an issue on which no magical single solution is possible and on which detailed, evidence-driven, properly costed and fully tested policy initiatives are by far most likely to achieve sustainable incremental change.”

Speaking to The Africa Report,  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said he was “proud” of the Rwanda partnership, saying “It’s been clear for a long time that the current way of doing things, with desperate people paying their life savings to smugglers and crossing the ocean in flimsy dinghies, isn’t working.”

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options