Apr 14, 2022 - World

Critics deride Boris Johnson plan to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda

Picture of Boris Johnson
Photo: Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Labour Party leaders and advocates slammed a plan announced by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday to fly some asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing and settlement in what he called an effort to stop those "illegally" migrating to the country via "unseaworthy" boats on the English Channel.

Driving the news: Yvette Cooper, a British politician and a member of the opposition Labour Party, called the plan "unworkable, unethical [and] extortionate."

  • She added that the announcement was "an attempt to distract from Boris Johnson’s lawbreaking," referring to how Johnson will be fined for attending Downing Street parties while Britain was under a strict lockdown in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Details: The U.K. would pay the Rwandan government 120 million pounds (approximately $157 million) that will be used for the "economic development and growth of Rwanda," per a U.K. government press release.

  • "Funding will also be provided to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and integration, similar to the costs incurred in the U.K. for these services," according to the release.
  • Additionally, crossing the English Channel in small boats will also be made a crime.
  • Johnson said the government has been preparing the plan for nine months. He also said he expects European countries to enact similar action.

What they're saying: "It means that economic migrants taking advantage of the asylum system will not get to stay in the U.K. while those in genuine need will be properly protected, including with access to legal services on arrival in Rwanda, and given the opportunity to build a new life in that dynamic country," Johnson said.

  • The Rwandan Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Vincent Biruta, said that his country "is committed to international co-operation and partnership on migration, in particular the opportunities that a robust protection system as well as a comprehensive human capital investment program can create, for migrants and for development of the host country."

But, but, but: Steve Valdez-Symonds, refugee director at Amnesty International U.K., pointed out that Rwanda has a  “dismal” human rights record that the U.K. government is failing to consider, per AP.

What we're watching: While Johnson said he is "confident" that the plan is compliant with "our international legal obligations," he expects that it will be challenged in the courts.

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