Rwanda: EU 'won't let us' return migrants says expert
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From Tuesday, June 14, the British Government intends to begin its pilot scheme, giving a one-way ticket to Rwanda for some asylum seekers that arrive on UK shores. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the £120m project would “save countless lives” from human trafficking. However, refugee organisations have hit back at the plans, while a legal challenge has also been brought forward to stop the process getting underway.
Single men who arrive in Britain, on boats or lorries, will be targeted by the scheme.
The Government aimed to discourage people crossing the English Channel to seek asylum, by making it clear many cases will now be dealt with by Rwanda.
It’s thought about 31 people will be on the first flight for Tuesday.
While the scheme has been heavily criticised, it’s not the first time refugees have been sent to Rwanda.
In 2019, the European Union (EU) announced a €10.3m (£8.8m) support package to the UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Rwanda.
The project provided a life-saving avenue out of Libya for people in need of international protection, with a view to their further resettlement.
It was built on the example of the ETM Niger, through which more than 2,900 refugees and asylum seekers were evacuated out of Libya, between 2017 and 2019.
The EU’s Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, spoke glowingly at the time about the scheme.
He said: “This project will support efforts of the Government of Rwanda to receive and provide protection to about 1,500 refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya.
“Such a remarkable and powerful proof of African solidarity should be further encouraged, replicated and supported.”
But the UNHCR has distanced itself from the Home Office arrangement, which could see thousands of refugees sent to Rwanda.
Lawyers for the UN agency have told a High Court it twice warned the Home Office the scheme was unlawful.
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The hearing was told by representatives for the Home Office that the plan must not be stopped by legal challenges because it was in the public interest.
They have also urged a judge to reject challenges on behalf of individual asylum seekers.
The UK plans to send refugees to Rwanda, where they will have their asylum claims dealt with.
While in the east African country they will be given accommodation, support and, if successful, will be able to remain in Rwanda with up to five years’ access to education and support.
Those who fail in their asylum bids will be offered the chance to apply for visas, under other immigration routes, if they wish to remain in Rwanda, but could still face deportation.
The scheme has essentially been brought forward to deal with English Channel crossings, which have exceeded 10,000 this year already.
But a coalition of campaigners are looking to derail the plans before they can get properly started.
The claimants want to block the removal to Rwanda of specific individuals who have been told they are leaving.
And they want to challenge the lawfulness of any such transfers to Rwanda.
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