UK expands Rwanda deportation deal
The UK has expanded a controversial deportation deal with Rwanda to include all migrants who illegally enter British soil after passing through ‘safe’ countries, following a visit by Home Secretary Suella Braverman to Kigali on Saturday.
Braverman claimed the policy was “fair and balanced” after signing the updated agreement for the Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta.
“I sincerely believe that this world-leading partnership between two allies and two friends, the United Kingdom and Rwanda, will lead the way in finding a solution which is both humanitarian and compassionate,” Braverman stated.
Should British courts find the proposals to be legal, the revised agreement will cover “all categories of people who pass through safe countries and make illegal and dangerous journeys to the UK,” and not just asylum seekers.
Under the deal, individuals who arrive in the UK illegally could be taken to Rwanda to have their asylum requests reviewed. If provided refuge, they will then remain in Africa rather than return to the UK. According to Sky News, citing an unnamed government source, the update would “seal off all the loopholes” for those arriving illegally, including those claiming to be victims of modern slavery.
Braverman’s predecessor, Priti Patel, said last April that the UK asylum system was “collapsing under a combination of real humanitarian crises.” Patel signed a bill to deport migrants to Rwanda, which is more than 6,400km away.
The Central African country received over £120 million ($146 million) in development funding from its former colonizer in exchange for accepting asylum seekers.
However, the proposal has been stymied by legal obstacles, and no migrants have thus far been relocated.
Britain was forced to cancel its first deportation flight at the last minute in June 2022, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm.”
According to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UK had over 230,000 refugees and 127,000 pending asylum cases as of November 2022.
In the fiscal year ending September 2022, more than 23,000 people who crossed the English Channel entered immigration detention. There were 2,000 people in immigration detention, including those detained in prison under immigration powers, at the end of September 2022. That was nearly three times the number at the end of June 2020, according to Home Office data.