The British government under the increasingly unsteady hand of Boris Johnson has announced a proposal to deport asylum seekers of whatever origin who arrive by ‘unauthorised routes’, such as crossing the Channel in little boats or stowed away in big boats and aeroplanes, to Rwanda in east Africa! Those who cannot convince the government that they should be allowed to live in the UK will, it seems, be left in Rwanda or will then be expelled by the Rwandan authorities to God knows where. The plan involves a down payment to Rwanda of £120 million on a trial basis, which Mhari Aurora in The Times of 14 April 2022 describes as “an expensive gamble especially when taxpayers are under significant financial pressure with rising inflation, rising taxes and stagnating wages” (‘Exporting migrants to Rwanda – what could possibly go wrong’).
There are two basic ways of looking at this government proposal; (1) It is, some claim, just pure vote-chasing, an unreal threat that can be summed up in the next three paragraphs:
The main point of this extremely heralded enterprise must surely be to get ‘party-gate’ off of the front pages and to show Boris ‘heroically’ doing something (even something this bizarre and costly) about something he really can do little about except tinker, that is to stop the influx of refugees seeking a better life away from the horrors brought to their countries mainly by western imperialism!
His timespan to bamboozle people into accepting that this strange plan is a serious proposal and will be done is short, i.e., the local elections on 5 May 2022 which may well be used as a springboard by his party to launch a campaign to oust him should those elections go badly for the Tories.
For his part, the Prime Minister insists that the first flights will start in weeks, but we have been here before. There have been plans mooted previously of floating hostels off of the British shores, like the prison hulks of old, to house asylum seekers, and within the lifetime of this parliament the government has briefed the media at different times that countries such as Albania or Ghana were ready to house offshore processing centres for those trying to claim asylum in the UK. The sheer cost of doing this and the costs associated with the legal challenges to it would make it financially unviable.
Then we come to the second way of looking at this proposal: (2) This is really going to happen!
One of the reasons that any previously proposed schemes didn’t come to fruition is that for whatever reasons Albania and Ghana wouldn’t or couldn’t agree to all our government’s rules and stipulations, and, more importantly, there would have been huge legal problems at that time. Rwanda, however, seems to tick all HMG boxes re assessing asylum seekers and it is happy to play its part for whatever undisclosed fees have been agreed. Secondly, very shortly there will be no legal grounds left to argue against this measure for those selected!
The Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through Parliament will be the game-changer! At present, it is generally unlawful for an asylum seeker to be removed from the United Kingdom while either their asylum claim or asylum appeal is being processed. This safeguard is being removed by clause 28 combined with Schedule 3 of the Bill. These two will enable removal of an asylum seeker to a “safe country” while their claim is pending.
What is a “safe country”? There is in reality no place that it totally safe but the safe place in the proposal is where generally a person’s life and liberty are not threatened because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, a place from which a person will not be removed elsewhere other than in accordance with the Refugee Convention, but where they can be removed to without the prospect of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. And the person cannot be removed to a country that they are of which his is a citizen or national.
So, unless you are a national of Rwanda you will be liable to removal to there even while your claim is being assessed. The fact that Britain receives a fair number of asylum claims from Rwandan citizens who say they have been subjected to modern slavery does rather militate against the idea that Rwanda is a ‘safe country’!
Mark Piggott of The Times pointed out the absurdity of the whole idea, writing “I find it strange that when young, fit adults arrive on our shores, rather than set them to work doing all the jobs we no longer wish to do, we offload them on to a country with no such shortages”. He goes on to point out that the “ONS reported last November a record 1.2 million job vacancies…” while “at the end of 2021 there were more than 100,000 asylum applicants awaiting an initial decision … The average wait is a year. If the UK is unable to source enough workers at home to keep services going, does it really make sense to spend hundreds of millions of pounds removing people who want to work and pay taxes while their asylum claims are processed?” (‘It’s idiotic to send willing workers all the way to Rwanda’). Bearing in mind the enthusiasm with which British people are being asked to help out asylum seekers from the Ukraine, and the welcome being extended to millions of wealthy Hong Kongers, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Priti Patel’s proposals, besides being stupidly absurd, are both racist and discriminatory against the poor.
The reader hopefully can see that some of the points in (1) are still valid in scenario (2), i.e., burying party-gate and electioneering are a small bi-product of this proposal. But ask yourself; if this was not going to happen, why does the Nationality and Borders Bill make it possible by erasing the existing legal protections for the asylum seeker?
The Labour Party will not give full opposition to the Nationality and Borders Bill and so, whatever they may pretend, they will stand with the government in attacking those most distressed and least able to stand up for themselves.
Various individual MPs have spoken against the Rwanda plan in Parliament, and some of them have even voted against parts of the Nationality and Borders Bill, but this disgusting anti-proletarian bill will be carried and there will be no way to rectify this or all the other injustices of imperialism through votes in bourgeois Parliaments or membership of Parliamentary parties. Social revolution is our only salvation and the leadership of the working class by a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party is the only preparation for and chance of success for that revolution.