UK minister in Rwanda confirms migrant deportation plan

LONDON — Britain’s home secretary arrived in Rwanda on Saturday for a visit aimed at reinforcing the British government’s commitment to a controversial plan to deport some asylum seekers to the African country.

Ahead of her visit, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said migration policy would “act as an effective deterrent to dangerous and illegal travel”.

Britain’s Conservative government wants to prevent migrants from making risky journeys across the English Channel to Britain, and the deportation deal signed with Rwanda last year was part of measures to deter arrivals. More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain by boat in 2022, up from 8,500 in 2020.

It is planned that some migrants arriving in the UK on small boats would be taken to Rwanda where their asylum claims would be assessed. Those granted asylum would rather stay in the African country than return to Britain.

But the £140 million ($170 million) plan has run into legal challenges and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda. The UK was forced to cancel the first deportation flight at the last minute in June after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the plan “poses a real risk of irreversible harm”.

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Human rights groups cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record and argue that sending people over 6,400 kilometers to a country where they do not want to live is inhumane.

Earlier this week, a group of asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Syria were given permission to appeal the British government’s decision to relocate them in court.

Defending the plan, Braverman said it would “support people to rebuild their lives in a new country” and boost Rwanda’s economy through investment in jobs and skills.

He is expected to meet with President Paul Kagame and his counterpart Vincent Biruta to discuss the details of the extradition deal.

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the non-profit organization Freedom from Torture, called the policy a “cash for the people” plan.

“Instead of pursuing this inhumane and unworkable policy, ministers should focus on creating safe routes to the UK and addressing the unacceptable backlog of asylum applications so that people fleeing war and persecution can rebuild their lives with dignity,” he said.

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