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15 Apr, 2024 09:34

UK could deport asylum seekers to ex-Soviet republic – The Times

The British government has entered talks with Armenia following the breakdown of its so-called Rwanda plan, the newspaper has reported
UK could deport asylum seekers to ex-Soviet republic – The Times

Britain has entered talks with Armenia to launch a migrant deportation scheme similar to London’s controversial deal with Rwanda, The Times reported on Monday.

According to the newspaper, leaked documents have revealed that the British government has launched an “extensive search” for another third party, after plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing faced opposition at home and abroad.

Besides Armenia, London has also started talks with Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Costa Rica, and Botswana, The Times reported. Civil servants are said to be testing countries against feasibility criteria, such as the size of the territory and its population.

The UK reached a five-year agreement with Rwanda in April 2022 for illegal immigrants to be sent to the African nation to have their asylum claims processed. Ministers have argued the plan will deter people from making boat crossings to the UK via the English Channel. In June of the same year, however, the first flight was canceled following intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The plan has also been ruled illegal by the UK’s highest court, which has deemed Rwanda unsafe for deportees.

The British Parliament is set to debate a new draft law, the Safety of Rwanda Bill, on Monday. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government introduced the proposal late last year to block further court challenges to the scheme. The legislation has faced strong opposition in the House of Lords and Commons, with the government accused of violating international human rights laws.

Sunak’s office claimed last week that flights to Rwanda will take place in the spring, without naming a specific date.

The Central African nation was the scene of a genocide after civil war broke out 30 years ago. According to official estimates, more than a million people were killed.

Armenia is a landlocked country in the Caucasus that was formerly part of the Soviet Union. Over the past decades, it has engaged in a long-running territorial dispute with Azerbaijan over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in violent clashes between the two neighbors.

In 2023, Baku regained control of Nagorno-Karabakh, triggering a mass exodus of Armenians that formerly made up the ethnic majority in the area.