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UK -Rwanda asylum deals, the Pact of Shame.

UK -Rwanda asylum deals, the Pact of Shame.
Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, left, shakes hands with Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, right, after signing what the two countries called an “economic development partnership” in Kigali, Rwanda Thursday, April 14, 2022. Britain’s Conservative government has struck a deal to send some asylum-seekers thousands of miles away to Rwanda, a move that British opposition politicians and refugee groups condemned as inhumane, unworkable and a waste of public money. (AP Photo/Muhizi Olivier)

People seeking asylum in the UK could now be relocated to Rwanda under a controversial deal blasted by international human rights groups and other humanitarian organizations as “shockingly ill-conceived” and contrary to international obligations as well as international refugee law.

Media reports say the government plan would see some single men who arrive in Britain from across the English Channel in small boats flown 6,400 kilometres to Rwanda while their asylum claims are processed. These people will be allowed to apply for the right to settle in Rwanda.

Under the £120m scheme, Asylum seekers (single) deemed to have entered the UK unlawfully will be transported in Rwanda where they will be allowed to apply for the right to settle. 

In this deal as it was revealed by Home Secretary Priti Patel the UK will spend up to £30,000 per person, covering their accommodation before and after the journey, as well as the one-way plane ticket to Rwanda.

In the past few months, Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel had attempted to close a similar deal with democratic countries like Albania, Ghana and Kenya, but all rejected it in the face of heavy criticism from their citizens. Patel and Johnson then found a more willing partner in Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has no such qualms about domestic opposition.

Speaking at a joint news conference in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Thursday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said that people relocated to Rwanda “will be given the support including up to five years of training, integration, accommodation, health care, so that they can resettle and thrive.”

Patel also called the plan a “joint new migration and economic development partnership,” saying that the UK is “making substantial investment in the economic development of Rwanda.”

“Condemnations and objections against the deal “

The move has been condemned as unworkable and inhumane by UK opposition politicians, charities and refugee groups.

Ex-PM Theresa May told the house of Commons she did not support the policy due to her concerns over whether it met standards on “legality, practicality and efficacy”. Telling MPs, she fears the proposals could split up families and increase the trafficking of women and children.

“Can I say with respect to my right honourable friend that from what I have heard and seen so far of this policy, I do not support the removal to Rwanda policy on the grounds of legality, practicality and efficacy,” former UK Prime minister Mrs May told the Commons.

“But I want to ask her about one very specific issue. I understand that those who will be removed will only be young men, that families will not be… well, the home secretary is shaking her head so I’ve obviously misunderstood the policy in that sense.

“But if it is the case that families will not be broken up, and the home secretary is nodding, does she not believe and where is her evidence that this will not simply lead to an increase in the trafficking of women and children?”

Anglican church leader delivering a sermon on Easter Sunday at Canterbury Cathedral the Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the UK -Rwanda asylum deal, saying the policy did not stand “the judgment of God”.

 Justin Welby said the strategy announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson posed “serious ethical questions”.

“The details are for politics and politicians. The principle must stand the judgment of God and it cannot,” Welby said.

“It cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values, because sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God who himself took responsibility for our failures,” he said.

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has strongly opposed the deal. and made it clear it does not support the externalisation of asylum by countries, including measures taken to transfer asylum seekers and refugees to other nations, with insufficient safeguards to protect their rights.

“People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing,”

. “UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards

 said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs.

Human Rights Watch said Rwanda did not respect some of the most fundamental human rights.

“Refugees have been abused and assassinated in Rwanda and the government has, at times, kidnapped Rwandan refugees outside the country to bring them home to face trial and ill-treatment,” said Lewis Mudge, HRW’s Central Africa director.

A plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana was shot down by a missile in April 1994, triggering the Rwandan genocide in which more than 800,000 died. The man who shot that plane down is who UK just signed a deal with.

“Even in Rwanda the deal is not well received “

In Kigal, Genocide orphans are unhappy because of UK -Rwanda deal.

Adults orphaned by the 1994 Rwandan genocide have reportedly been told to leave a hostel they lived in for years to allow asylum seekers in the UK to stay in their place. The orphans have been living at Hope Hostel were given only two weeks’ notice to leave.

Orphans of genocide say they will have nowhere to live after a new British Rwandan migrant program uses the hostel they have lived in for years.

MP in Rwanda Parliament and Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s leader (DGPR) Frank Habineza stated that they will support refugees who want to come to their country directly, but criticized rich countries, including the UK, for imposing their obligations on asylum seekers on other countries.

Developed countries such as the UK “should not transfer their international responsibilities to receive refugees and transfer them to third countries” just because they had “the money to influence and enforce their will”.

“Rwanda has already a high population destiny … and already land is not sufficient for us all, with a lot of land conflicts and competition for the natural resources,” the DGPR said. “Taking on migrants from UK will increase the land burden and survival challenges for the limited natural resources available.” said Habineza.

Contrary to the Constitution the government of Rwanda has signed this deal without consulting the members of parliament opinions. 

The constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003 revised in 2015 in 85 article states that the Parliament is competent to approve laws related to international treaties agreements on armistice, peace, accession to international organizations, modification of national laws, or those approving international treaties and agreements relating to the status of persons.  

 Rwanda constitution, article 167 related to Negotiation and ratification of international treaties and agreements provides that “International treaties and agreements concerning armistice, peace, commerce, accession to international organizations, those which commit state finances, those requiring modification of national legislation or relating to the status of persons can only be ratified after approval by Parliament”  

The members of parliament in Rwanda who have the duties of advancing public opinions and representing their interest were not informed about the UK-Rwanda asylum deal as well as the Rwanda -Denmark asylum deal which is under process.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a towering figure in Rwanda’s opposition and the leader of DALFA-Umurinzi party, said “officials in Rwanda should focus on solving its political and social issues that made Rwandans seek refuge abroad before offering to host refugees or migrants from other countries”.

 Rwanda produced refugees too, the British and Rwandan governments’ argument that relocating people to Rwanda would address inequalities that drove people from their homes was not credible. said Ingabire. 

The condemnations are not only in UK, and Rwanda, but on the international level.

Guy Verhofstadt the president of the European council blasts the UK Rwanda asylum deal. 

“UK doesn’t do its part to for Ukrainians, now wants to send desperate refugees to Rwanda!

Anything to deflect from those lockdown parties. Britain is a warning to France and other European countries of where populist Government’s lead to” Guy Verhofstadt reacted on his twitter account.

“Anti- refugee Bill”

The UN Refugee Convention which UK is a signatory protects people from being sent to a country where they face serious threats to life or freedom

Rwanda-UK Asylum deal is likely to breach UK obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Refugee protection remains urgently needed by those forced to leave their countries. The 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol are the only global legal instruments explicitly covering the most important aspects of a refugee’s life. According to their provisions, refugees and asylum seekers deserve a protection and rights to apply for international protection in the country of their choice. 

According to article 31 of Refugee convention, the asylum seekers could not be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State.

In the Article 32 the Geneva convention stipulates that the expulsion of refugee shall be only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with due process of law. Except where compelling reasons of national security otherwise require, the refugee shall be allowed to submit evidence to clear himself, and to appeal to and be represented for the purpose before competent authority or a person or persons specially designated by the competent authority.  

The Contracting States shall allow such a refugee a reasonable period of 30 days    within which to seek legal admission into another country. 

The deal is a crackdown on traumatized people whose only wish is to build a new life and being protected in United Kingdom. It is a shame for UK, a country which is considered as a model in the countries that seeks to defend human rights and the rule of law.

Sending people seeking asylum to Rwanda would be cruel and immoral, as Rwanda is a country which do not respect human right. On February 22, 2018, in Rwanda the Police Shot Dead at Least 12 refugees during the refugee Protest at Kiziba refugee camp.

Rwandan authorities have failed to release their investigations of the fatal shooting of 12 refugees by police in western Rwanda, in contrast, at least 63 refugees face charges related to the protests, ranging from “organizing and participating in illegal protests” to “spreading false information with the intention of provoking international opinion hostile to the Rwandan state”.

The perpetrators who supposed to be tried before Court, they live freely and they are serving for the government in the army and in police. 

Israel have deported +4,000 asylum seekers from Soudan and Eritrea to Rwanda and Uganda between 2014 and 2017.  Because of human right abuse and lack of social assistance the big number of these asylum seekers crossed 5 African countries to reach Libya, tried to travel in Europe to apply for refugee protection. 

Throughout the journey they were often left starving, as well as being imprisoned, beaten and subjected to slavery in Libya. Only 9 of original refugees from Israel remained in Rwanda as of 2018, the UN found. 

Since 1994, the RPF party and Rwanda de facto leader Paul Kagame have ruled Rwanda using tactics which have been characterized as authoritarian. Elections are manipulated in various ways, which include banning opposition parties, arresting or assassinating critics, and electoral fraud.

Opposition politicians, journalists and human rights activists in Rwanda face systematic harassment, arrest and detention by President Paul Kagame security services.

A part from UK, Denmark is also in talks with Rwanda about setting up a new procedure for transferring asylum seekers to Rwanda. 

The UK-Rwanda asylum deal proposal will come into an effect after the passage of a law in UK.

Opinion article submitted for publication by Prudence Nsengumukiza

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