Ian Blackford calls UK government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda “evil"

Ian Blackford has described the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as “evil”.

It comes following reports that the Government will announce multimillion-pound plans for asylum seekers who cross the Channel in small boats to be flown for processing to Rwanda.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to sign a deal with the East African nation during a visit on Thursday, with people seeking sanctuary in the UK to be sent more than 4,000 miles.

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The Prime Minister is set to argue in a speech on Thursday that action is needed to combat the “vile people smugglers” turning the ocean into a “watery graveyard”.

Ms Patel is then expected to set out further details of a “migration and economic development partnership” with Rwanda, during a visit to the capital of Kigali.

The SNP’s Westminster leader told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s just chilling, absolutely chilling, to think that people who are coming here for a whole host of reasons – vulnerable people – are going to be taken all the way to Africa to be processed.

“This is not the mark of a civilised society. It’s evil.

“It just turns my stomach to see that our Government acting in our name can behave in such a way, and I think a lot of people are going to be quite aghast.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday March 30, 2022.SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday March 30, 2022.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday March 30, 2022.

Scotland’s Health Secretary accused the UK Government of being “institutionally racist” over the proposals.

Humza Yousaf tweeted: “UK Govt rightly provides asylum and refuge to Ukrainians fleeing war, but wants to send others seeking asylum thousands of miles away to Rwanda for ‘processing’.

“And you still question whether this heartless Tory Govt is institutionally racist?”

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An initial £120 million is expected to be given to the Rwandan government under a trial scheme, which is being criticised by refugee charities as a “cruel and nasty decision” that will fail to address the issue and “lead to more human suffering and chaos”.

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Labour accused Boris Johnson of trying to distract from being fined for breaching coronavirus laws with “unworkable, unethical and extortionate” plans.

Human rights campaigners have described the Government’s plan as “barbaric”, “cowardly” “shockingly ill-conceived”.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said that the African nation had a “dismal human rights record”.

In a statement to the PA news agency, Mr Valdez-Symonds said: “Sending people to another country – let alone one with such a dismal human rights record – for asylum ‘processing’ is the very height of irresponsibility and shows how far removed from humanity and reality the Government now is on asylum issues.

“The Government is already wrecking our asylum system at huge cost to the taxpayer while causing terrible anxiety to the people stuck in the backlogs it has created.”

“But this shockingly ill-conceived idea will go far further in inflicting suffering while wasting huge amounts of public money.”

Another refugee advocacy group issued a withering assessment of the scheme, calling it a “grubby cash-for-people plan” that was “cowardly” and “barbaric”.

Detention Action said that the men sent to Rwanda would “likely face indefinite detention under a government notorious for violent persecution of dissent”.

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The advocacy group added: “At the same time, the UK currently gives asylum to Rwandan refugees fleeing political persecution.”

The Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has the potential to be a “really humane step forward”, Wales Secretary Simon Hart has said.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hart said: “I think the first thing is we have to deal with this problem. We have a very good relationship with Rwanda: It’s an up-and-coming economy, it has got a very good record with migrants in this particular issue.

“And it’s an arrangement which I think suits both countries very well and provides the best opportunities for economic migrants, for those who have been in the forefront of this particular appalling problem for so long now.

“And I think that this arrangement is a really… it has the potential to be a really good step forward and a really humane step forward.”

When pressed on the fact the president of Rwanda has been accused of human rights abuses on more than one occasion, Mr Hart said: “That is true, but that doesn’t alter the fact that their reputation as far as migrants are concerned, and their economic progress, is phenomenal.”

Mr Johnson will argue that the “long-term plan for asylum in this country” will be “world-leading” and will settle thousands of people every year through safe routes.