The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Friday said that the UK’s plan to export its asylum obligations by transferring asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda for asylum processing is a violation of international law.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Thursday announced that under the UK and Rwanda’s new migration and economic development partnership, “[a]nyone entering the UK illegally, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1, may now be relocated to Rwanda.” He explained that last year 28,526 people were known to have crossed into the UK. This number is increasing rapidly and could reach 1,000 asylum seekers per day in the coming weeks.
According to Johnson, Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world. It has been recognized for its capacity to welcome and integrate migrants and “will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead.” The UK will provide £120 million in financial aid to assist Rwanda in smooth resettlement of refugees. Johnson has also argued that the arrangement will prevent economic migrants from exploiting the asylum system and will “disrupt the business model of the gangs.”
UNHCR has urged the UK and Rwanda to reconsider the arrangement citing concerns about increased risks from refugees seeking alternate routes and amplified pressure on frontline states.
UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, emphasized the UK’s duty under international law to ensure that those seeking asylum are protected:
UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards. Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention . . . [P]eople fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.