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England. “One way ticket” to Rwanda: London wants to stop refugees.

On April 13, 2022, a group of people believed to be immigrants are standing on a boat in the English Channel. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that Britain would send immigrants to Rwanda to apply for asylum. Photo: Gareth Fuller / PA / AP / dpa

The main stone

Britain wants to send immigrants to Rwanda for the duration of their asylum application. According to its own reports, the Conservative government is trying to prevent economic refugees from crossing the English Channel dangerously and illegally and to put a stop to the smugglers.

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday, the British navy is set to take action against human traffickers in the strait between Great Britain and France.

Human rights activists and the opposition were outraged by the “brutal and vicious” plan. Critics also accuse Johnson of seeking to divert attention from the “partygate” affair on Downing Street ahead of important local elections in the UK.

Sending immigrants about 6,500 kilometers to East Africa “will not prevent them from entering the country, and it will lead to human suffering and chaos,” said Enver Solomon, of the Refugee Council. He estimates it will cost taxpayers 1.4 billion (approximately CHF1.7 billion) a year.

The British Red Cross is concerned about plans to “send half the shocked people around the world.” The BBC called the plan a “one way ticket” for some refugees. According to media reports, only men should be sent to Rwanda.

Critics point to the dire human rights situation in the country, which has been under the dictatorial rule of President Paul Kagame since 2000. Great progress has been made, especially in the fields of education, health and infrastructure.

However, Kagame was accused of harassing opponents and suppressing freedom of expression. Johnson called it “one of the safest countries in the world.” London criticized the government in Kigali last year, and now Home Minister Priti Patel has traveled to Rwanda to sign the agreement – although experts believe many legal questions remain unanswered.

Patel’s political career depends on the fight against illegal immigration. He announced that he would repair the “broken” displacement and asylum system thanks to Brexit. Strict visa rules should only allow bright minds into the country.

But so far, it has not stopped the hard-line Patel people who consider it illegal. There is talk of a “small boat crisis” in Great Britain. Last year at least 28,526 refugees, mostly in small inflatable boats, reached the English coast – by 2020 there were 8,404. The government fears there will be more this year – about 600 people turned up on Wednesday alone.

Patel has already given serious advice on how to prevent illegal immigration into the English Channel: immunity to border guards, so-called pushbacks in the open sea, no right to give shelter to illegal entrants, citizenship flush. However, the second chamber of parliament, the House of Lords, removed most of his plans from his bill.

Now Patel wants to at least successfully present the deal with Rwanda – after many countries and regions like Albania and Gibraltar have already denied reports of relevant deals, some of them are angry. Anyone waiting for an asylum decision in Great Britain should be kept in strictly restricted reception camps in the future.

Patel is central to Johnson’s Brexit pledge to “regain control.” The 50-year-old once said that his mission was to “end the freedom of movement of the people once and for all.” As the daughter of Indian parents who immigrated from Uganda decades ago, she is a fitting face for Johnson on the issue of migration.

For conservatives, restraint is, above all, the control of one’s own boundaries. However, the United Kingdom never participated in the Schengen agreement for free travel. Since Brexit, the government has made it harder for EU citizens to come to the country to work and live. But with the withdrawal from the EU, opportunities also disappeared. For example, London does not have a renegotiation agreement with an EU country, and negotiations have not yet been fruitful.

At the end of November 2021, the British government was shocked to learn that 27 people had died trying to cross the English Channel in an unqualified rubber boat. Johnson said he wants to prevent the strait from becoming a wet graveyard for more people. Asylum experts, on the other hand, are finally calling on the government to create legal travel alternatives.

SDA