Rwanda migrants: Boris Johnson's plan to send refugees to Rwanda is straight out of Donald Trump's playbook – Scotsman comment

In defending his inhumane, expensive and deeply political decision to start sending people claiming asylum in the UK to Rwanda, Boris Johnson claimed it was “one of the safest countries in the world”.

Boris Johnson is leading the UK down a dangerous path as he adopts Donald Trump's obsession with migrants (Picture: Christopher Furlong/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson is leading the UK down a dangerous path as he adopts Donald Trump's obsession with migrants (Picture: Christopher Furlong/WPA pool/Getty Images)

"Rwanda has totally transformed over the last few decades, it's a very, very different country from what it was,” the Prime Minister said.

Unfortunately, the happy picture Johnson attempted to paint is yet another example of his willingness to bend the truth to breaking point, as was made clear in a US State Department report on human rights in Rwanda, published this week.

It highlighted a litany of human rights abuses including “credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; forced disappearance by the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country, including killings, kidnappings, and violence...”

The UK's own Global Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, also expressed concern last year that Rwanda had not agreed to “conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of human rights violations including deaths in custody and torture”.

So any refugees given a one-way ticket to Rwanda – on the grounds they are considered “inadmissible” to the UK – should beware what they do and say there. Political dissent may be dangerous.

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Johnson’s plan, which could apply to children, contrary to some reports, may or may not be an illegal breach of the rights afforded to refugees under the Geneva and Refugee Conventions, but it is certainly a shocking breach of our duty to fellow human beings.

Sophie McCann, of charity Médecins Sans Frontières, said the outsourcing of “the indefinite detention and processing of asylum seekers to Rwanda” risked creating similar conditions to those they encountered on Nauru Island in the Pacific, where Australia ran a similar scheme.

She described it as “some of the worst suffering recorded in MSF’s 50-year existence”, adding: “One-third of our patients attempted suicide. Children as young as nine years-old were trying to kill themselves. This kind of suffering is what awaits refugees in Rwanda if plans go ahead. It is medically and ethically reprehensible.”

Johnson himself recognised there were likely to be legal challenges, complaining of “a formidable army of politically motivated lawyers who for years have made it their business to thwart removals and frustrate the government”.

A Prime Minister fined for breaking the law, complaining about lawyers attempting to ensure the government acts in accordance with its own laws.

Apart from moral concerns, the plan could cost an estimated £1.4 billion a year, according to the Refugee Council.

The Home Office questioned the figure, but former Conservative Cabinet minister and peer Sayeeda Warsi, in remarks echoed by other moderate Tories, warned the scheme would be “ineffective and costly”, as well as “inhumane”.

Of course, Johnson would have been well aware of the wave of criticism this plan would provoke. A snap YouGov poll may help explain his motivation. While it found that 42 per cent of all respondents were opposed to the idea, with 35 in favour, among Conservatives 59 per cent supported it, with 22 against.

For a Prime Minister in trouble and facing local elections early next month, some ‘red meat’ to fire up the most ardent Brexiteers may go a long way to ensuring his political survival.

Moderate Conservatives now need to think long and hard about where Johnson is leading his party. Writing in the New Statesman on Wednesday, former Conservative MP David Gauke said members of Johnson’s government “frequently have to defend decisions that raise questions of integrity and propriety”. “Our politics becomes grubbier, our standards lower, our institutions weaker,” he wrote.

Johnson’s populist attack on asylum seekers is straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook, a distraction from the Prime Minister’s law-breaking and other more important issues.

This is an immoral and cruel scheme and one that raises fundamental questions about what kind of country the UK, in the post European Union era, is turning out to be.

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