London, United Kingdom ●
Tue 14 Jun 2022
The British government on Tuesday defended its controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, even as the entire Church of England senior leadership called it shameful and immoral.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has insisted the first flight to Kigali will take off regardless of the number of people on board, after 23 of the 31 migrants had their tickets cancelled.
“We expect to send the flight later today,” she said. Sky Newsas further protests took place at a detention center near London Gatwick airport.
Truss said she was unable to confirm how many people would be on the charter flight to Kigali, which was due to depart from an undisclosed airport on Tuesday evening.
But she said the policy, which the UN refugee agency also criticized as “wholly wrong”, was vital to breaking the business model of human trafficking gangs exploiting vulnerable migrants.
Record numbers of migrants have made the perilous Channel crossing from northern France, pressuring the government in London to act after promising to tighten borders after Brexit.
Activists supporting migrants and a union representing Border Force workers who will have to carry out the policy have failed in a legal challenge to stop the deportations.
After the latest attempt was rejected on Monday, the Church of England’s two most senior clerics and 23 bishops called the policy “immoral” and said it “brings Britain to shame”.
“They (the migrants) are the vulnerable people whom the Old Testament calls us to value,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell wrote in a letter to The Times.
“We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities or dismiss international law – which protects the right to seek asylum.”
Over the weekend, it was reported that Queen Elizabeth II’s heir, Prince Charles, had privately described the government’s plan as “appalling”.
Truss, however, fired back. “The people who are immoral in this business are the human traffickers selling human misery,” she said.
“Our policy is completely legal. It’s completely moral,” she added, accusing critics of having no alternative plan.
‘Value for money’
Truss said she could not put a figure on the cost of the charter flight, which was estimated to be around £250,000 ($303,000).
But she insisted it was “cost-effective” to reduce the long-term social cost of irregular migration.
“There will be people on the flights and if they are not on this flight they will be on the next flight,” she added.
Deported asylum seekers arriving in Kigali will be accommodated at the Hope Hostel, which was built in 2014 to provide refuge for orphans of the 1994 genocide of 800,000 to one million ethnic Tutsis.
Twenty orphans were living in the hostel when the partnership between Rwanda and Britain was signed. They have since been expelled.
Hostel manager Ismael Bakina says up to 100 migrants can be accommodated and he will charge $65 per day.
“It’s not a prison. It’s a house like ours,” hostel manager Ismael Bakina said. AFP. “In a hotel, a person will be free to do whatever they want. When they want to get out of the hotel, that’s no problem.”
Under the agreement with Kigali, anyone disembarking illegally in Britain is likely to receive a one-way ticket for treatment and resettlement in Rwanda.
President Paul Kagame’s government has said deportations will begin slowly and dismissed criticism that Rwanda is not a safe country.
Human Rights Watch has warned that there are “serious human rights violations” in Rwanda, including restrictions on freedom of expression, arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture.
Rwandan opposition parties are also questioning whether the resettlement program will work given high youth unemployment rates.
Kagame is expected to welcome the leaders of the other 53 Commonwealth countries later this month, along with Prince Charles as head of the grouping.