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Rwanda has struck a deal with the British government that will offshore some of the UK’s asylum processing to the African country.
The move has been condemned as unworkable and inhumane by UK opposition politicians, charities and refugee groups.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel is due to announce details in Rwanda on Thursday of what the U.K. government is calling an “economic development partnership.”
Media reports say the government plan would see some single men who arrive in Britain from across the English Channel in small boats flown 6,400 kilometres to Rwanda while their asylum claims are processed.
The arrangement would cost Britain about $158 million and follows failures to strike deals with Albania and Ghana.
Simon Hart, the UK government minister for Wales, said the goal was to “break up” the business model of criminal people-smuggling gangs.
The UK government has been under mounting pressure to do something about the thousands of people arriving in southern England, mainly from France.
More than 28,000 people entered the UK on small boats last year, up from 8,500 in 2020 and just 300 in 2018. Dozens have died, including 27 people in the November capsizing of a single boat.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke on Thursday about stopping the smugglers behind the Channel crossings. He called the plan “radical” and that he expected it to be challenged in the courts.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has termed her arrival in the Rwandan capital, Kigali a “significant moment for the new plan for immigration”.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee director at Amnesty International UK said the government’s “shockingly ill-conceived idea will go far further in inflicting suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money.” He said Rwanda’s “dismal” human rights record made the idea even worse.
The chief executive of the UK based organization Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, called it a “cruel and nasty decision” and predicted it would not stop people-smuggling gangs.
According to a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, detainees in Rwanda suffer from arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture in official and unofficial facilities.