The High Court of the United Kingdom has upheld a new policy that will deport asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Rwanda. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck a 120-million-pound ($148 million) deal with the government of Rwanda to send migrants to the Central African nation, with additional payments expected as more are deported. The controversial policy was proposed as an attempt to quell the number of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel on small boats into the UK and to prevent human trafficking. Critics of the policy cite grave human rights concerns regarding both the morality of sending migrants to another foreign country and the poor human rights record of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The first flight was scheduled to have thirty-seven migrants on board, but challenges to the policy in court have reduced that number to seven. Human rights organizations are continuing to fight the policy in court and are attempting to prevent the first flight from taking off, though the British government has stated that those who miss the first flight due to legal challenges will be put on a later flight.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other members of the British government continue to defend the policy and fight for its implementation. Prime Minister Johnson said that “We are not going to be in any way deterred or abashed by some of the criticism that has been directed upon this policy, some of it from slightly unexpected quarters; we are going to get on and deliver.” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also defended the reasoning behind the policy, stating, “There will be people on this flight, and if they’re not on this flight, they will be on the next flight because we are determined to break the model of the appalling people traffickers.” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi stated his staunch opposition to the policy, arguing, “The precedent that this creates is catastrophic for a concept that needs to be shared like asylum.” Similarly, the Church of England released a statement calling it an “immoral policy that shames Britain.”
The upholding of the new policy for asylum seekers in the United Kingdom sets a terrifying precedent for those seeking asylum not only in the UK but around the world. Migrants experience incomprehensible amounts of trauma in their pursuit for asylum, and sending them to a completely different country upon arrival is not only catastrophic for their well-being but is also inhumane. Implementing this policy in the UK can inspire other nations to do the same, leaving asylum seekers as pawns in the geopolitical games of powerful states. If Prime Minister Johnson truly wants to increase the safety of migrants on their journeys to asylum and target human traffickers, he should work to create safe routes to the UK for asylum seekers that curtail their reliance on human traffickers to reach asylum. Simply deporting asylum seekers to other countries does nothing to solve the problem.
More than 28,500 people seeking asylum are believed to have arrived in the United Kingdom on small boats last year alone. The majority of these asylum seekers are from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. According to the new policy, anyone arriving in the United Kingdom illegally is liable to be sent to Rwanda for processing and resettlement. The policy also states that “Genuine asylum claimants should be content to stay in France,” where many asylum seekers begin their journey to the UK.
The deportation of asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Rwanda is a blatant abuse of human rights. Those seeking legal counsel against the policy should continue their efforts, and the actions of Prime Minister Johnson and his government should be denounced. Asylum seekers deserve the same protections of their human rights as those living in the UK and, therefore, should not be deported without reason.