It is more common for countries to make mutual agreements on refugees, but moving thousands of miles to wait for their procedure is a new phenomenon. This is now happening with Rwanda because that country has offered itself on the international market as a ‘host country’. He will receive 140 million euros for that.
Denmark, known for its strict asylum policy, has already jumped in. And now comes the United Kingdom.
Reactions in our country are not mild. “Impossible, unethical and excessive,” says the center-left Labor Party. A spokesman called it a “shameless” distraction from the “partygate” scandal. This week, Prime Minister Johnson was punished for the first time for violating his own rules of isolation.
“Timming this plan right now when the prison sentences are being handed out will certainly not be a coincidence,” says correspondent Anne Saenen. “Johnson has to show that he can do something too. Migration has been one of the main topics of Brexit.”
The controversial plan comes from Johnson’s Home Secretary Priti Patel. “Patel often released test balloons like this,” says Saenen. For example, she proposed a plan to receive refugees on the small island of Ascension, which has less than a thousand inhabitants in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. “But now it’s serious. An agreement with Rwanda has already been signed.”
It is the ultimate attempt to address the influx of refugees crossing the English Channel from Calais in France. When she took office, Patel promised to halve that number. That failed: in 2021, more than 28,000 refugees managed to cross, about 3.5 times more than the year before. This year the counter is temporarily at 4600.
‘The pinnacle of irresponsibility’
Amnesty called Denmark’s intention to send asylum seekers to Rwanda last year a ‘new low’. It would also set a ‘dangerous precedent’ in Europe. That seems to be happening now. In a condemnatory statement, the British branch of the organization does not deal with the government’s plans.
“Sending people to another country – and one with such a poor human rights record – is the culmination of irresponsibility. It shows how far our government is from humanity and reality when it comes to human rights,” Amnesty said.
‘Executions, disappearances and torture’
Rwanda is not really known for good human rights. The BBC’s public broadcaster points out that the British themselves have expressed concern about the human rights situation in the country a year ago at the United Nations. The United Kingdom wanted an investigation into ‘extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, disappearances and torture’.
Johnson is defending himself at a news conference today, saying Rwanda has “completely changed” in recent decades and is now “one of the safest countries in the world”. In addition, the policy would have a dissuasive effect on the flow of refugees, Johnson argues.
Human rights organizations also contradict the second claim. They say the plan does not address the reasons people are fleeing their countries.
‘The British want this’
For now, refugees arriving in the Netherlands will not suffer the same fate as in the United Kingdom. Secretary of State Eric van der Burg calls the British plan ‘special’, but does not want to condemn it. He says the issue is not a problem in the Netherlands, because ‘we are bound by European treaties to which England is not bound’.
This is mainly due to legislation within the European Union. Denmark can bypass this, because in 1992, after a domestic referendum, they ‘unsubscribed’ from European immigration laws. There are still obstacles, but Boris Johnson says there is no need to worry about that.
Anyway, Johnson himself sees everything all right. “The British have voted several times to protect our borders,” he said. “Our compassion may be infinite, but our ability to help people is not.”