U.K.’s Tendentious New Asylum Policy Quickly Results In Suicide Attempts

Several British news outlets recently reported undocumented asylum seekers to have attempted suicide or struggle with suicidal thoughts after a new refugee policy puts them at risk of being relocated to Rwanda. The UK government closed the deal with Rwanda back in April, which establishes that thousands of illegal immigrants that came to the UK could be sheltered in Rwandan residences. The highly expensive arrangement would be an innovative new opportunity to manage UK’s ever-rising refugee numbers, but is vastly criticized, as the unethical deportation would take a toll on refugees’ oftentimes already vulnerable mental health. Rwanda is thereby suspected to fail to be able to secure people’s safety due to a history of oppressive conduct against refugees and human rights violations.

According to U.K. authorities in favour of the deal, including prime minister Boris Johnson and Home Office Secretary Priti Patel, it would protect refugees from smugglers and human traffickers, provide them with safe transportation and legal residency. UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) officer Larry Bottinick opposes against these statements in a Times Radio Interview halfway April, stating that the policy is “disheartening and unnecessary”, will not “lead to solutions, rather to widespread detention”, and will lead to “more smuggling instead of less”.

The prospect of another life-altering, uncalled for displacement has made several refugees feel like they saw no other option but to end their lives. The Independent reports a suicide attempt of an Afghan man, who had lived in the UK since his early childhood, after hearing about his announced deportation to Rwanda. Not long after, The Guardian reports attempted suicides from Iranian and Yemeni asylum seekers to avoid being evicted. A Sudanese asylum seeker’s death is being investigated on the statement of his friend that “he wanted to take his life because he no longer wanted to live after the announcement about Rwanda offshoring”.

Asylum seekers, largely coming from troubled places and putting themselves in life-threatening, unbearable circumstances to flee from their homes, are already susceptible for trauma, depression, and detachment as it is. Their first and foremost goal is to find peace and safety, but this agreement is more than likely to worsen harm. British Red Cross executive director Zoë Abrams voices her concern about the bill that “proposes to send traumatised people half-way round the world to Rwanda”. She states that “we are not convinced this drastic measure will deter desperate people from attempting to cross the Channel. People come here for reasons we can all understand, like wanting to be reunited with loved ones, or because they speak the language. Making it harsher may do little to stop them risking their lives.”

Rwanda’s own conduct toward refugees is questionable as they have been accused of maltreatment and human rights violations in the past. Human Rights Watch came out with a statement in May, saying that the agreement “was expected to downplay human rights violations in Rwanda. After all, the government couldn’t ship of vulnerable people seeking protection with a one-way ticket to a partner that they regard as abusive”. According the organization, Rwandan authorities have a record of using excessive violence towards refugees, including killing 12 Congolese refugees in 2018, dozens of arrests for vague reasons, and persisting sexuality-and gender-based intimidation.

Critics emphasize that the U.K. should spend their money and energy in bettering internal refugee policies and safety guarantees. They should also reach better agreements within the EU states and find more ethical solutions to approach the asylum matter instead of merely shifting the responsibility to the Rwandan government. “The UK has a proud history of helping people when they are fleeing from war and persecution. From the Kindertransport to the huge outpouring of public support we have seen for refugees from Ukraine, we know that the British people want us to be a force for good in the world when people are facing major crisis”, Zoë Abrahams states, with a hopeful glance to the British moral.