In response to the Prime Minster’s announcement today with regards to a relocation plan for asylum seekers to Rwanda, Enver Solomon, CEO of Refugee Council, said:
“The UK Government is lurching from one inhumane policy to the next in relation to the lives of refugees, none of which address the reason why people take perilous journeys to find safety in the UK.
The decision to send those seeking sanctuary in our country to Rwanda is cruel and nasty. Treating people like human cargo by using the force of military to repel vulnerable people who have already endured extreme human suffering and expelling them to centres in Rwanda, a country with a questionable record on human rights, is dangerous, cruel and inhumane.
This announcement comes at a time when every day the UK is witnessing the brutality of war that desperate Ukrainian families are fleeing. This is the reality faced by refugees escaping conflicts all over the world. We know these policies will do little to deter desperate people from seeking protection or stop the smugglers but only lead to more human suffering, chaos and at huge expense to the UK taxpayer of an estimated £1.4 billion a year.
There is a deliberate attempt to paint people seeking asylum as jumping the queue. Yet, this ignores the fact that the Government’s own data shows that two thirds of men, women and children arriving in small boats across the channel come from countries where war and persecution have forced them from their homes. With so few safe and legal routes available, these people are left with no other option than to risk their lives in small boats at the hands of smugglers in desperation to find safety.
This Government’s proposal to treat refugees differently purely on the basis of how they arrived in the UK undermines a key principle of refugee protection. People desperately fleeing war and persecution should always have a fair hearing on British soil.
If the UK Government is serious about reducing the need for onward movement of refugees, it must act as a truly global Britain and invest humanitarian and development aid into the countries people are fleeing. We must work multilaterally – not with remote countries such as Rwanda – but to get an effective bilateral agreement with France and our EU neighbours for fair, effective and coordinated asylum processing, creating safe routes via humanitarian visas from assessment centres set up at British embassies elsewhere in Europe to enable people in need to travel without resorting to smuggling networks.
We need to see well thought-out, long-term solutions that protect refugees and effectively control our borders as opposed to reactive and inhumane policies enshrined in the Nationality and Borders Bill, that punish and criminalise people seeking safety, harm lives or destroy our reputation as a country which values human rights.”