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  • Writer's picture Samantha Ng

Drawing the Line: the UK’s Rwandan Asylum Plan

First introduced on the 14th of April, 2022, the United Kingdom’s Rwandan asylum plan is a five year long test scheme that aims to relocate illegal immigrants and asylum seekers entering the UK to Rwanda.

On the surface, the Rwandan asylum plan is a genius scheme; not only will illegal immigration to the UK decline, but the Rwandan population and economy will also reap the benefits of legal immigration after suffering post-genocide. Boris Johnson himself believes that the plan will “save countless lives” by reducing dangerous human smuggling along the English channel. However, when analysed deeper, a myriad of issues begin to present themselves.

Firstly, the inevitable feeling of alienation that the deported groups will face. As recognized by many, being suddenly forced to live in a foreign country as a refugee will no doubt harm mental health and potentially evolve into resentment towards both the UK government and Rwanda.

In addition, the home office’s determination to proceed with the plan could exacerbate this harm further–discussions of using electronic tags to track refugees and imposing curfews disregard any previous traumas regarding state surveillance, inadvertently heightening paranoia. These proposed methods of tracking displaced peoples were ruled as violating article three of the European Conventions of Human Rights: the prohibition of torture, leading the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to block the deportation flight to Rwanda.

Obfuscated by the government’s insistence on following through with the scheme, the true motives for the Rwandan asylum plan remain unclear. The UK’s home secretary, Priti Patel, has asserted that “nothing is off the table”, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly contemplated changing state laws in order to “help [the government] as [they] go along”. Even after the ECHR blocked a flight bringing refugees to Rwanda on the 14th of June, the UK remains committed to do “whatever it takes” to ensure that the refugees are successfully deported to Rwanda.

Right now, the largest question is where to draw the line. It can be argued that the UK is entitled to make their own political decisions, even if it means undermining the ECHR and risking accusations of torture. But it can also be argued that the proposed use of microchipping–as well as the Rwandan Asylum Plan as a whole–is dehumanising, and should be dropped in order to maintain the dignity of the refugees. From a purely utilitarian viewpoint, the plan is beneficial to the majority of the government and citizens in the UK, decreasing the illegal immigrant population and increasing security in the country. However, from the perspectives of individuals and humanitarianism, the plan represents a crude and dehumanising view of refugees and immigrants that stretches back decades.

All governments strive for the greater good of their country–or what is perceived as such. But to what extent does the end truly justify the means? When does negotiation turn into violation?

In the end, the priority of governments should be the human rights of the citizens placed in their care, and these human rights should come before the legality of entry into the country. Creating a balance between respect and security when developing immigration policies is key to building good international relations and maintaining the population.

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