This final injustice of this plan and the Nationality and Borders Bill arises because of the first two: by toeing the line of (il)legality and by criminalising the principle of asylum, the human rights of individuals claiming asylum in the UK are fundamentally eroded.
The rhetoric of the Rwanda scheme is cruel and dehumanising. It speaks about individual asylum seekers – who have likely already undertaken long journeys to get to the UK – as if they were simply cargo with no human agency. There is serious and troubling lack of recognition of just how traumatic that journey and the process of removal can be. There is also no recognition that many asylum seekers will not want to or necessarily be able to live in Rwanda.
This is particularly true if we consider the wider human rights context. Contrary to Boris Johnson’s statement that “Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world”, Rwanda has a poor human rights record and is a source of many refugees who fear political persecution by the Kagame regime. Indeed, the likelihood that offshored asylum seekers will face human rights abuses is high; Israel sent Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Rwanda under a policy that was eventually abandoned. A study by Oxford university academics outlined personal experiences of these asylum seekers who speak of ongoing threatening and degrading behaviours and the confiscation of key identity documents upon arrival.
How can we be claiming to protect asylum seekers by knowingly sending them to live under the same regime?
The Nationality and Borders Bill will return to the Commons on Wednesday 20th after being defeated for a second time by the Lords. There are more just and dignified ways of running our asylum and refugee systems in the UK, and there is the popular will to support them.
There is no illegal way to claim asylum and now is the time to stand in solidarity with all asylum seekers seeking refuge in the UK, regardless of their means of arrival.
By Tiger Hills, Advocacy Volunteer