Planned Rwandan processing centre shows why we must resist the borders bill

priti patel

The government has announced plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Priti Patel is currently in Rwanda to finalise a £120m trial that will see mostly single men who arrive in Britain being flown to Rwanda for processing.

The BBC reported:

Under the proposal, Rwanda would take responsibility for them, put them through an asylum process, and at the end of that process, if they are successful, they will have long-term accommodation in Rwanda.

Campaigners, rights groups, and politicians have called the plans “ill-conceived, inhumane and evil.”

Borders bill

This plan is part of a larger series of “barbaric” measures put forward in the Nationality and Borders bill. The bill is currently in its final stages, having passed through the House of Lords. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have made it clear that if the bill is passed, it would be catastrophic for refugees:

UNHCR believes the UK’s Nationality and Borders Bill would penalise most refugees seeking asylum in the country, creating an asylum model that undermines established international refugee protection rules and practices.

The borders bill makes it even harder for refugees to find safety and asylum within the UK. One of the biggest problems with the borders bill is that it divides refugees up into two groups. The Refugee Council explains:

Read on...

 Refugees who travel to the UK through third countries via irregular routes (like crossing the Channel in a small boat) will be given a new form of temporary protection with limited rights to welfare benefits and family reunion, and they’ll have their status reassessed after 30 months.

Those who travel via “irregular” routes are to be considered one group, and those who took a more direct route will be considered another. The Refugee Council’s own research shows that most of the people arriving by boats are refugees. We also know that the refugees who arrive via boat risk severe injury and death in order to arrive in the UK.

As the Refugee Council say:

It is impossible to tell how much someone needs our help merely by the way they arrive in the UK. The majority of refugees have no choice but to use irregular routes to enter another country.

Tiers of refugees

The bill also makes it clear that the two groups of refugees will have different rights:

The Secretary of State or an immigration officer may treat Group 1 and Group 2 refugees differently, for example in respect of—

  1. (a)  the length of any period of limited leave to enter or remain which is
    given to the refugee;
  2. (b)  the requirements that the refugee must meet in order to be given indefinite leave to remain;
  3. (c)  whether a condition under section 3(1)(c)(ii) of the Immigration Act1971 (no recourse to public funds) is attached to any period of limited leave to enter or remain that is given to the refugee;
  4. (d) whether leave to enter or remain is given to members of the refugee’s family.

The plan to remove refugees to Rwanda is a follow through of the legislation outlined in the borders bill. It is also reminiscent of the outsourced detention centres used by the Australian government. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Australia currently holds the record for detaining people for the longest amount of time. Elaine Pearson, director of HRW, said:

Detaining people solely due to their immigration status is harmful, expensive and ineffective as a deterrent to migration. The Australian government should stop punishing those who may have fled violence and other injustices and offer rights-respecting alternatives to detention.

Both the decision to divert refugees to Rwanda and the borders bill itself are not only an attack on refugees. They are also an attack on the basic humanity and morality required to understand that people arriving in the Channel, by regular or “irregular” means, are doing so because their lives are under threat. A government which can look at that and make it harder for refugees to reach safety is an inhumane government.

What can we do?

#BlackLivesMatterUK called for people to join protests:

The Refugee Council have put together a template to assist people in writing to MPs to voice their disagreement with the borders bill.

We absolutely must stand against anti-refugee and anti-immigrant rhetoric wherever we find it. The borders bill is a horrific piece of legislation, and we must work to make sure that all refugees are welcome here.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Richard Townshend – cropped to 770×403, via Creative Commons 3.0

Get involved

  • Join the protest against the Rwanda plans outside the Home Office on the 14th April at 6pm
  • Write to your MP with the help of this template letter from the Refugee Council

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  • Show Comments
    1. White refugees fleeing war not (directly) of our making. Welcome.
      Non-white refugees fleeing war, poverty and oppression of our making. Not welcome.
      Sums up England’s inbred racism in a nutshell.

    2. “Under the proposal, Rwanda would take responsibility for them, put them through an asylum process, and at the end of that process, if they are successful, they will have long-term accommodation in Rwanda.”

      Please forgive me if I’m being stupid, but does this mean that such refugees will not be granted asylum in Britain, but in Rwanda? What does “long-term accommodation in Rwanda” mean if that’s not the case?

    3. Migrant workers, meanwhile, are often callously accused of becoming permanent burdens on their host/employer nations. I, however, have noticed over decades the exceptionally strong work ethic practiced by migrants, especially in the produce harvesting sector. It’s typically back-busting work that almost all post-second-generation Westerners won’t tolerate for ourselves.

      Also, often overlooked by their critics is that many migrants flee global-warming-related chronic crop failures in the southern hemisphere widely believed to be related to the northern hemisphere’s chronic fossil-fuel burning, beginning with the Industrial Revolution.

      While some global migrant situations may not be climate-change related, many land- and water-based border-guard confrontations increasingly in the news are nonetheless scary. It’s as though the migrants are considered disposable life thus their suffering somehow being less-worthy, even to otherwise free, democratic and relatively civilized nations.

      Perhaps it’s something similar to how a human-trafficker perceives his/her cargo when choosing that most immoral line of business. When that human “cargo” takes note of this perceived devaluation, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin subconsciously perceiving themselves as beings without value.

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