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OFF SHORING PROCESSING OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN RWANDA - STATEMENT FROM LD4SoS

April 18, 2022 10:37 AM

The Conservative Government plans to send asylum seekers to have their claims processed in Rwanda. Liberal Democrats have campaigned for years, often with colleagues in other parties and alongside NGOs, for a fair, efficient and less harmful asylum system.

We are disgusted by this Government's inhumane treatment of people whose right to seek sanctuary in this country had been accepted even by its own stringent rules. It is not, and never has been, illegal to claim asylum. The 1951 Refugee Convention sets out the rights individuals with a well-founded fear of persecution to claim asylum and the legal obligations of countries (including the UK to protect them) - and that right is not conditional on how the person arrives in the country

The real issue is the lack of safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to enter this country - forcing them to put their lives at risk through dangerous channel crossing, and poor decision making. Rather than introducing this cruel policy the Government should be focusing on creating safe and legal routes for people to get here and reforming decision-making. (Our policies on this can be found on our website https:// ld4sos.org.uk/en/).

We are still trying to understand the details of this terrible scheme. Ministers have not been specific but understand that it will focus on single males. It is unbelievable that the Home Secretary could introduce the idea of offshoring asylum seekers to have their legitimate claims determined in Rwanda without any substantive interview first! This is a nightmare scenario reminiscent of a deluded game of snakes and ladders where you climb the ladder to arrive in the U.K. only to land on a snake which sends you to a country in Africa which has a poor human rights record from where you will not be relocated back to the UK even if your claim for asylum is upheld. It is not clear what happens to asylum seekers if their claim fails. Commentators have said that there is no right of appeal although the MoU between the UK and Rwanda says that individuals will have a right to appeal under Rwandan law (in the UK 40% of the cases initially turned down are upheld at appeal.) Critically whilst the MoU also states that Rwanda will ensure access to an interpreter and legal assistance it does not state that it will be free or set any minimum requirements. We understand that civil servants have raised concerns about the cost-effectiveness of this scheme. Certainly, the experience from Australia suggests that apart from being inhumane and dangerous (there was widespread abuse in the offshore centres used) the model of exporting asylum responsibilities was also very costly.

Apart from being cruel, expensive, discriminatory, and unjust this policy is not going to deter a single asylum seeker from trying to reach our unwelcoming shores.

These 'unwelcome' migrants include people who already have family members resettled here but who are not quite closely related enough (e.g., spouse, child, dependent parent with proof of dependency). They could be young men from Syria not considered vulnerable enough for a resettlement scheme but at risk of conscription and forced to kill their fellow countrymen (including many civilians). They could be lawyers and others fleeing for their lives from the Taliban in Afghanistan. They might also be Rwandans with every reason to avoid returning to an unstable country.

Our country is not overrun by asylum seekers. The prosperous countries of Western Europe receive far more applications than we do, and it is common knowledge that the vast majority of refugees settle in neighbouring countries hence Syrians stay in Jordan and Lebanon.

As Liberal Democrats campaigning for justice, compassion, and efficiency in our asylum system we demand that the Government abandons its current agreement with Rwanda and removes offshoring proposals from its legislative programme. The tens of thousands of UK residents who are opening up their homes to welcome Ukrainian refugees must also be appalled at the double standards of a government, which seems to welcome some who seek safety here and force others to endure months and sometimes years of insecurity.

It is now time that all MPs examined their consciences and values and hold the Government to account. Parliament should resist populist policies designed to appease certain parts of the electorate legislate for sound and humane policies which we can all admire.