From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Location of Rwanda, English Channel
Mains level : Global refugee crisis
The United Kingdom has signed a deal with Rwanda to send some asylum seekers to the East African nation — a move that PM Boris Johnson said will “save countless lives” from human trafficking.
Immigrants crisis in UK
- Since 2018, there has been a marked rise in the number of refugees and asylum seekers that undertake dangerous crossings between Calais in France and Dover in England.
- Most such migrants and asylum seekers hail from war-torn countries like Sudan, Afghanistan, and Yemen, or developing countries like Iran and Iraq.
- The Britain that has adopted a hardline stance on illegal immigration, these crossings constitute an immigration crisis.
- The Nationality and Borders Bill, 2021, which is still under consideration in the UK, allows the British government to strip anyone’s citizenship without notice under “exceptional circumstances”.
- The Rwanda deal is the operationalization of one objective in the Bill which is to deter illegal entry into the United Kingdom.
What is the Rwanda Deal?
- The UK and Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership or the Rwanda Deal is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two governments.
- Under this deal, Rwanda will commit to taking in asylum seekers who arrive in the UK on or after January 1, 2022, using illegally facilitated and unlawful cross border migration.
- Rwanda will function as the holding centre where asylum applicants will wait while the Rwandan government makes decisions about their asylum and resettlement petitions in Rwanda.
- Rwanda will, on its part, accommodate anyone who is not a minor and does not have a criminal record.
Rationale of the deal
- The deal aims to combat “people smugglers”, who often charge exorbitant prices from vulnerable migrants to put them on unseaworthy boats from France to England that often lead to mass drownings.
- The UK contends that this solution to the migrant issue is humane and meant to target the gangs that run these illegal crossings.
What will the scheme cost the UK?
- The UK will pay Rwanda £120 million as part of an “economic transformation and integration fund” and will also bear the operational costs along with an, as yet undetermined, amount for each migrant.
- Currently, the UK pays £4.7 million per day to accommodate approximately 25,000 asylum seekers.
- At the end of 2021, this amounted to £430 million annually with a projected increase of £100 million in 2022.
- The Rwanda Deal is predicted to reduce these costs by outsourcing the hosting of such migrants to a third country.
Will the Rwanda Deal solve the problem of illegal immigration?
- This deal will be implemented in a matter of weeks unless it is challenged and stayed by British courts.
- While Boris Johnson’s government is undoubtedly bracing for such legal challenges, it remains unclear if the Rwanda Deal will solve the problem of unlawful crossings.
- Evidence from similar experiences indicates that such policies do not fully combat “people smuggling”.
Criticisms of the deal
- Several activists, refugee and human rights organizations have strongly opposed the new scheme.
- There are dangers of transferring refugees and asylum seekers to third countries without sufficient safeguards.
- The refugees are traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.
- Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.
- Rwanda also has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents.
Do any other countries send asylum seekers overseas?
- Yes, several other countries — including Australia, Israel and Denmark — have been sending asylum seekers overseas.
- Australia has been making full use of offshore detention centres since 2001.
- Israel, too, chose to deal with a growing influx of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants from places like Sudan and Eritrea by striking deals with third countries.
- Those rejected for asylum were given the choice of returning to their home country or accepting $3,500 and a plane ticket to one of the third countries.
- They faced the threat of arrest if they chose to remain in Israel.