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The British government announced on Thursday that it would send migrants entering the country illegally through Rwanda – in an attempt to stop illegal immigration, which was immediately criticized by left-wing politicians and activist groups.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the agreement with the East African country, saying it would allow anyone entering illegally, as well as any illegal immigrant who arrived since January 1, to be transported to Rwanda.
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Johnson said in a speech that the move was made possible by Britain’s exit from the EU, giving Britain greater control over its immigration policy.
“This innovative approach, driven by our common humanitarian impulse and made possible by the Brexit freedoms, will provide safe and legal routes for asylum while disrupting the gangs’ business model, because it means that economic migrants who benefit from the asylum system will not be in the UK, “Johnson said. “While those in real need will be properly protected, including with access to legal services, on arrival in Rwanda and have the opportunity to build a new life in the dynamic country backed by the funding we provide.”
Consecutive British governments have struggled with illegal immigration across the English Channel from France. Migrants will sneak up on the backs of trucks or other vehicles coming across the canal between Calais and Dover – or on small boats across the canal itself, often organized by criminal gangs.
Johnson said seven out of 10 migrants who arrived on small boats were men under 40. Johnson said crossing trials have passed thorough “obviously safe countries, including many in Europe, where they could and should have sought asylum.”
More than 28,000 entered the UK on boats in 2021, up from 8,500 in 2020. This has led to concerns about the exploitation of gangs, just as cartels have exploited the crisis along the US-Mexico border and the danger to migrants.
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In his speech, Johnson focused on the cost of illegal immigration to British taxpayers, arguing that Britain is generous to immigrants but that “we can not maintain a parallel illegal system.”
“Our sympathy may be infinite, but our capacity is not,” Johnson said, adding that it was unfair to ask UK taxpayers to write a ‘blank check’ to anyone wishing to live in the UK.
The policy was immediately criticized by human rights groups, who rejected Johnson’s claim that Rwanda is a safe country. It drew criticism from the left-wing Labor party, with leader Keir Starmer calling the plan “impractical” and “blackmailing” and accusing Johnson of trying to distract from the controversy surrounding his participation in parties during COVID-19 lockdowns.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it had made its objections known to both countries.
“UNHCR remains strongly opposed to schemes seeking to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries for lack of adequate guarantees and standards. Such schemes simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations and run counter to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention,” the UNHCR assistant said. High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, in a statement.
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The Rwandan government said the five-year deal would mean Britain would have to pay around $ 157 million for housing and other migrant services.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said the agreement “is about ensuring that people are protected, respected and empowered to advance their own ambitions and settle permanently in Rwanda if they so choose.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.