The U.K. government has announced new plans to tackle illegal migration, control its borders and crack down on the criminal gangs exploiting this international crisis.
Central to this is a Migration and Economic Development Partnership signed by the U.K. Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and Rwandan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-Operation, Vincent Biruta.
This will see migrants who make dangerous or illegal journeys, such as by small boat or hidden in lorries, have their asylum claim processed in Rwanda. Those whose claims are accepted will then be supported to build a life in Rwanda.
Under this Partnership the U.K. is investing £120 million into the economic development and growth of Rwanda. Funding will also be provided to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and integration, similar to the costs incurred in the U.K. for these services.
Alongside this action, the U.K. military will also now take operational command of responding to small boats in the Channel, in partnership with Border Force.
This will happen with immediate effect, and be backed up by £50 million in new funding. This change will deliver new boats, aerial surveillance and expert military personnel. In doing so it will bolster Border Force teams and their existing patrol vessels and provide a Wildcat helicopter.
Additionally, to address the £4.7 million per-day cost to the taxpayer from housing migrants in hotels (including those who have arrived through resettlement programs), the U.K. government will be introducing a new, nationwide dispersal system so asylum pressures are more equally spread across local authorities.
“The global migration crisis and how we tackle illegal migration requires new world-leading solutions,” said U.K. Home Secretary, Priti Patel. ”There are an estimated 80 million people displaced in the world and the global approach to asylum and migration is broken. Existing approaches have failed and there is no single solution to tackle these problems. Change is needed because people are dying attempting to come to the U.K. illegally. Access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.”
Precise details of the plan are yet to be confirmed, but questions have been raised of the legality of the program as well as Rwanda’s human rights abuses. In January 2021, the British government itself said it was concerned by continued restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom in the country. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office issued a statement recommending that Rwanda Conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture, and bring perpetrators to justice. It also called for the screening, identification and support of trafficking victims, including those held in Government transit centers. Protection for journalists to work freely without retribution was also recommended.
Making the asylum partnership announcement on April 14, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world.