Priti Patel insists Rwanda scheme not 'one-sided' as refugees face one-way flights
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On Thursday, the Government unveiled a new plan for some asylum seekers arriving in the UK on small boats, which will see them handed a one-way ticket to Rwanda for processing and potential long-term refuge. The scheme – expected to cost around £120million – is part of wide-ranging attempts by the Home Office to tackle immigration figures.
Promises to “take back control” of British borders during Brexit campaigning have since failed to manifest, with figures showing the numbers have actually climbed dramatically since the UK left the EU.
The latest immigration and asylum data, published by the Home Office on March 2, shows asylum applications in Britain are at historic highs.
The data shows that 28,526 people arrived in small boats in 2021 alone, with preliminary figures showing 4,578 people arrived in the first three months of 2022.
Around 600 people made the crossing this Wednesday alone, and experts believe the figure could reach 1,000 a day within the coming weeks, meaning the total figure will almost certainly climb this year.
In 2020, the figures show 8,466 people arrived, while in 2019, the number of arrivals was 1,843. In 2018 it was 299.
There were 18,766 applications for asylum in the fourth quarter of 2021 — that’s 141 percent more applications than the same period in 2020, and 89 percent more when compared to the same period in 2019.
In total in 2021, there were 48,540 asylum applications in the UK, 63 percent higher than the previous year.
This figure is even higher than the peak of the European migration crisis in 2015/16, when there were 36,546 applications.
Of the 14,734 initial decisions made on asylum seekers in 2021, seven in 10 were eventually granted refuge in the UK.
The top ten nationalities claiming asylum in the UK between 2019 and 2021 were people from Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Albania, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Vietnam, Pakistan and India.
The figures show that 2,380 people were forcibly returned to another county in the year ending September 2021.
This is a 35 percent yearly drop, and the lowest number on record.
The data shows this figure has been declining since a peak in 2012, when 13,647 non-EU foreign nationals were forcibly returned.
Now, however, the Government will seek to turn these figures around, starting with its Rwanda plan.
Announcing the scheme, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would “save countless lives” from human trafficking.
He said action was needed to stop “vile people smugglers” turning the ocean into a “watery graveyard”, adding the “humane and compassionate” plan was designed to break their business model.
He said he wanted to make clear to people arriving on the Kent coast that they were better off taking legal routes and that the new plan would “over time prove a very considerable deterrent”.
Mr Johnson said the scheme would be uncapped, affect those who arrived illegally since January 1 of this year, and potentially involve tens of thousands in the coming years.
Priti Patel travelled to the Rwandan capital Kigali to sign the “migration and economic development partnership”, which is expected to mostly be applied to single men the British authorities believe are inadmissible.
Under the proposal, Rwanda would take responsibility for the people who make the more than 4,000-mile journey, put them through an asylum process, and at the end of that process, if they are successful, they will have long-term accommodation in Rwanda.
The Rwandan government said migrants will be “entitled to full protection under Rwandan law, equal access to employment, and enrolment in healthcare and social care services”
But criticism of the plan is pouring in, including but not limited to concerns over its legality, as well as Rwanda’s own murky human rights record.
In 2021, the British Government itself expressed concern over “continued restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom” in Rwanda at the United Nations.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the plan was a “shameful announcement meant to distract from Boris Johnson’s recent law-breaking”, referring to the ongoing ‘partygate’ scandal.
She added: “It is an unworkable, unethical and extortionate policy that would cost the UK taxpayer billions of pounds during a cost of living crisis and would make it harder, not easier, to get fast and fair asylum decisions.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said: “UNHCR does not support the externalisation of asylum states’ obligations.
“This includes measures taken by states to transfer asylum seekers and refugees to other countries, with insufficient safeguards to protect their rights, or where this leads to the shifting, rather than the sharing of responsibilities to protect refugees.”
And Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The Government is choosing control and punishment above compassion, despite the fact its own data shows that two-thirds of men, women and children arriving in small boats come from countries where war and persecution has forced them from their homes.
“We urge this Government to immediately rethink its plans which are in such stark contrast to what every Conservative prime minister since Churchill has sought to do by providing a fair hearing on British soil for those who claim asylum.”
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