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‘Patently discriminatory’ — Falana writes Boris Johnson over UK-Rwanda policy on asylum seekers

‘Patently discriminatory’ — Falana writes Boris Johnson over UK-Rwanda policy on asylum seekers
June 14
20:56 2022

Femi Falana, human rights advocate, has written to Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, on the country’s new asylum policy deal with Rwanda.

On April 14, TheCable had reported that the UK government intends to begin sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.

According to the UK prime minister, the action became necessary to stop illegal migration and to prevent “vile people smugglers” from turning the ocean into a “watery graveyard”.

Since the announcement, the decision has elicited varied reactions, with refugee groups describing the decision as “cruel”, while some non-governmental organisations have disapproved of the funds earmarked for the project.

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Defending the policy, Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, had said the country’s agreement with the UK is not for “trading of human beings”.

Kagame added that Rwanda is only trying to help and was approached because of its past experience in handling immigrants.

Falana, in a letter dated June 13, 2022, and addressed to the UK prime minister, said it amounts to “double jeopardy” for asylum seekers and refugees to be sent to Rwanda, considering the country’s human rights records.

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“I am very concerned that the Home Office is offering to fly asylum seekers and refugees back to the conflict zones they escaped from in the first instance if they do not wish to be sent to Rwanda,” the letter reads.

“According to my information, asylum seekers and refugees are being sent to Rwanda because of their method of reaching the UK – generally crossing the Channel to enter the UK.

“The largest nationality groups affected seem to be Afghans, Iranians and Sudanese. Sudanese refugees reportedly represent more than a third of those being sent to Rwanda.

“This patently racist, unlawful and discriminatory plan is inconsistent and incompatible with the UK’s international human rights obligations, and commitments to refugees.

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“The UK authorities cannot and should not escape their international legal obligations to asylum seekers and refugees and push to shift such obligations to another country.

“Specifically, the MoU and the plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda blatantly violate the UK’s legal obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; the Convention against Torture; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is patently unlawful and discriminatory for the UK government to penalise asylum seekers and refugees who belong to a group of nationalities simply because of their alleged irregular entry into the UK.

“The MoU and plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda may also violate the internationally recognised right to non-refoulement and lead to violations of other human rights.

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“You will agree with me that the MoU cannot be justified under international law as both the UK and Rwanda are states parties to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.

“Therefore, sending asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, a country with an appalling human rights record will amount to double jeopardy for asylum seekers and refugees: denying them their internationally recognised human rights in the UK, while also exposing them to the risks of grave human rights violations in Rwanda.

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“The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has already raised a number of concerns about the asylum process in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum, a lack of legal representation and interpreters, and difficulties in launching an appeal.

“Indeed, the Rwandese government has been accused by the UK and other Western countries of violating the human rights of its own people while also denying them access to justice and effective remedies. In the circumstances, it is the height of hypocrisy on the part of the UK to dump the refugees in Rwanda.”

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