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Editorial of the day (25th Apr): UK’s Rwanda Law

Context: The House of Lords passed the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, paving the way for the deportation of asylum seekers to the East African country.

About The Bill

  • Initially formulated by former PM Boris Johnson in 2022.
  • The UK government has passed the “Rwanda Bill,” which mandates the deportation of asylum seekers who entered the UK illegally after January 1, 2022, to Rwanda for processing.
  • Under the new law, these asylum seekers, regardless of whether they are deemed genuine or not, are prohibited from returning to the UK and must choose to settle in Rwanda or another country.
  • The Bill was passed despite intense opposition and was previously deemed a scheme that was ruled unlawful by the supreme court in 2023, which stated that Rwanda was not a “safe” country and the plan contravened the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
  • Rwanda’s Role: Rwanda will receive significant financial compensation for acting as an offshore processing centre.
    • The UK government has paid approximately 300 million pounds to Rwanda for the implementation of this policy.
  • Purpose: To discourage asylum seekers from attempting to reach the UK by dangerous routes, such as the small boats across the English Channel.
    • Example: A recent tragic incident involved the death of five asylum seekers, including a seven-year-old, during an attempt to cross the English Channel from France when their overcrowded boat’s engine stalled. Despite the danger, survivors chose to continue their journey to the English coast rather than return to safety.

Comparison with Other International Practices

  • The UK’s approach is compared to Australia’s offshore refugee program involving Nauru, which has contributed significantly to Nauru’s revenues.
  • The Bill is part of a broader trend where Western countries manage asylum and refugee situations through offshore processing, also noted in EU and U.S. policies.

Symbolic Reasons Behind the Bill

  • The Bill is seen as a tool for UK leaders to assert control over national borders and emphasise sovereignty, resonating with the Brexit narrative and similar to past policies like Australia’s use of Nauru.
  • It also aims to project a compassionate image by outsourcing asylum processing while retaining a stance on national sovereignty and control over immigration.

Concerns and Criticisms

  • Effectiveness Concerns: Despite the bill’s intentions, the number of people attempting to enter the UK illegally has increased by 25% over the same period last year.
  • Financial Viability: The initial cost per asylum-seeker under this policy is estimated at 1.8 million pounds, raising questions about the policy’s financial sustainability.
  • Potential Legal Issues: It is anticipated that many of the deportees will seek relief through the British courts, potentially burdening both the judicial system and the exchequer.

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