UK RWANDAN POLICY: A GAME CHANGER FOR POTENTIAL AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS
WHAT IS THE UK RWANDAN POLICY?
It is an immigration policy, signed by the UK and Rwandan governments, where people who are identified as illegal immigrants or asylum seekers will be transferred or relocated to Rwanda for processing, asylum and settlement.
The UK Rwandan policy was officially announced by the United Kingdom government on the 14th of April, 2022. It is formally known as the Migration and Economic Development Partnership. The policy was signed by UK and Rwanda under a Memorandum of Understanding for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement. This policy is part of the UK government's New Plan for Immigration.
The government explained that the policy was put in place to discourage people from making dangerous and illegal journeys into the UK to claim asylum. This government policy states that asylum seekers in the UK will be relocated to Rwanda where they will be able to apply for asylum.
Their request will be processed under Rwanda’s asylum system. If their applications were successful, they will be granted asylum in Rwanda. However, they will not be able to return to the UK.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The memorandum of understanding says that the United Kingdom will perform an initial screening of asylum seekers in the country. This is to determine whether it is inappropriate or safe for them to be relocated to Rwanda.
When they are deemed appropriate to be transferred, the UK government will transfer the person’s details to Rwanda for processing. Rwanda will then access the application and approve it.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ASSYLUM SEEKERS TRANSFERRED TO RWANDA?
Once transferred to Rwanda, the asylum request is processed according to Rwandan law. Once granted, they will be offered protection in Rwanda. However, if they are not granted asylum, they will be moved to a country in which they have a right to reside, they can also be given immigration status in Rwanda.
According to the policy, asylum seekers will be given support and accommodation by the Rwandan government. They are also free to leave and return to their accommodation as they wish. In fact, they are free to leave Rwanda for another country, to seek asylum elsewhere.
However, it is a one-way ticket out of the UK. Once out of the country, they are not allowed to return to the UK.
WHY IS THIS POLICY PUT IN PLACE BY THE UK GOVERNMENT?
The government has claimed that the policy is put in place to discourage people from entering the country through illegal and dangerous routes in a bid to claim asylum. The home secretary, Priti Patel said that the agreement would “put an end to the deadly trade in people smuggling.”
She revealed that more than 20,000 migrants entered the country last year, illegally through small boats. She emphasized that this new policy will be a “major blow to evil people smugglers” and help to reduce illegal entry.
The UK government has expressly stated that the main aim of the policy is to “tackle illegal migration, control our borders and crack down on the criminal gangs exploiting this international crisis.”
However, the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, Matthew Rycroft, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary where he noted that he did not believe that there was “sufficient evidence” to show that the policy will have any effect in deterring people from attempting illegal entry. Although, he opined that it is “regular, proper and feasible for this policy to proceed.”
The policy is described as a trial, which will initially last for five years, with the possibility of extension.
WHO ARE THOSE AT RISK OF BEING SENT TO RWANDA?
According to the agreement, as contained in the Equality Impact Assessment of the Rwandan Policy, asylum applicants who were previously present in or had a connection to another country in which they could have claimed asylum are eligible for removal.
Also, if their journey to the UK can be described as dangerous, or if they travelled or on after January 1, 2022. A dangerous journey is specified to mean a journey that is likely to result in harm or injury to the individual. An example of such is travelling in lorries or small boats.
People who can be exempted from these criteria are Rwandan nationals and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC).
Rwandan nationals are exempted due to “non-refoulement.” This is a core refuge convention principle that forbids countries from returning individuals to territories where their life or freedom will be threatened. As such, Rwandan nationals will not be sent back to Rwanda.
The Rwanda policy will also focus on young single men arriving in the UK illegally in small boats and lorries. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson stated that these young men take up the government's capacity to help genuine women and child refugees.
Home Secretary, Priti Patel, reiterated this by noting that most of these young men who enter the country illegally are not genuine refugees but economic migrants. Although the policy is not mainly focused on this group of people, it is likely to highly target them.
HOW DOES THIS POLICY AFFECT POTENTIAL AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS?
The UK Rwandan policy is a game-changer for potential African immigrants, especially those genuinely seeking asylum as they are at risk of being sent to Rwanda, which may not provide enough or adequate protection for them.
This immigration law shows how developed countries are generally hostile to migration to their shores while developing countries are more welcoming. This policy extends beyond UK and Rwanda to other developed countries and Africa.
This controversial policy does not bode well for refugees. It gives them a lack of control over their own lives and even pushes them down a more dangerous path. This especially does not bode well for African refugees fleeing their country due to threats to their lives.
Religious, international and human rights organizations are questioning the legality of this policy. Even though this policy is not new to developed countries, it discourages unwanted immigration by creating hostile immigration conditions and laws.