UK deportation agreement with Rwanda flawed and won't solve migration crisis, say critics

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  • A UK court has ruled that the intended deportation of illegal immigrants to Rwanda is legal.
  • A Labour parliamentarian believes the policy is flawed and a breeding ground for corruption.
  • Rwanda can only take up to 200 illegal immigrants.

Despite the courts on Monday ruling that the United Kingdom's intended deportation of illegal immigrants to Rwanda was legal, the policy remains opaque, shrouded in secrecy, a breeding ground for corruption, and has no guarantee of solving the UK's immigration crisis, says Yvette Cooper, a Labour Party legislator.

Speaking uninterrupted for five minutes in the House of Commons on Monday, Cooper made it clear that she did not support the Rwanda deal for which Home Secretary Suella Braverman was lobbying.

"The government has failed to stop criminal gangs putting lives at risk and proliferating through our borders. They failed to prosecute or convict the gang members and failed to take basic asylum decisions which are down by 40% in the last six years.

"Instead of sorting those problems out, they have put forward an unworkable, unethical, and extremely expensive Rwanda plan which risks making trafficking worse," she said.

Braverman described the court judgment as a vindication of the Conservative Party's policy.

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However, Cooper argued that the policy was a drain on the UK's fiscus, and unreasonably expensive.

She said:

It sets out serious problems in Home Office decision making, identifies significant financial costs of the scheme, and also there are limited numbers of people who will be covered, and certainly no evidence that it will act as a deterrent or address the serious problems that we face.

The court ruling, therefore, was "so flawed and chaotic".

She was supported by Garden Court Chambers - a group of barristers specialising in civil liberties, education, human rights, and immigration - who said: "The Home Secretary did not properly consider the circumstances of eight individual claimants to decide if their circumstances mean the asylum claims should be determined in the UK, or whether there are other reasons why they should not be relocated to Rwanda."

UK lawyer Colin Yeo said an appeal was likely and could delay the policy.

"An appeal by the claimants is inevitable, so the High Court judgment is not the last word. The Court of Appeal is likely to look at the case, as is the Supreme Court," he said.

There's a three weeks window period before the deportations start, if unopposed, because of the interim measure issued by the European Court of Human Rights, which states that removal cannot take place "until 3 weeks after delivery of the final domestic decision in ongoing judicial review proceedings".

Rwanda has already received 120 million pounds (about R2.5 billion) and another 20 million pounds is on the way.

Once the deportees land in Rwanda, the UK is not accountable for them. 

If they are granted asylum in Rwanda, they will stay. If not, Rwanda can deport them back to their countries of origin.

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"The idea is that by doing this to some refugees, other refugees will be deterred from trying to come to the UK to claim asylum," said Yeo.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has long been against this policy. The UNHCR found Rwanda unfit to take in people deported from the United Kingdom.

The UNHCR argued:

In the light of the history of refoulement and defects in its asylum system, Rwanda could not be relied on to comply with its obligations under that convention and, by extension, would fail to comply with the obligations it had assumed under the Memorandum Of Understandings (MOUs) and Notes Verbales (diplomatic communications).

Cooper said the Conservative government even planned to deport heavily pregnant women, and that it wanted a state almost halfway across the world to "take decisions for us".

She added that there was no economic sense in the Rwanda deal.

"The number of people Rwanda takes will be very limited, and there will be lots more money, provided by the UK government. The Home Secretary didn't tell us about any of those things."

READ | UK courts to hear last-minute appeals to stop first Rwanda deportation flight leaving

Rwanda will take about 200 people, and will translate to over a million pounds per person.

Before the UK deal, Rwanda entered into a similar one with Israel in 2014. In its ruling, the British court said the government didn't investigate the circumstances that led to the collapse of the Rwanda-Israel deal.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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