Rwanda: Plan for asylum seekers to be sent to Rwanda from the UK faces widespread criticism

The proposed scheme has gathered criticism from refugee groups and fellow politicans.

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.

Some of those who make the perilous crossing of the Channel, as well as by other means deemed "illegal" by the Government, would be sent to Rwanda while their claims are assessed "offshore". Here's what you need to know about the proposed plan and responses to it from organisations across the country.

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Critics have said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is using the proposed scheme to distract from the recent Partygate scandal. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

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What is the Rwanda asylum seeker scheme?

Asylum seekers who remain in the UK while their claims are considered could be housed in stricter reception centres under the plans. The first will reportedly open in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, in North Yorkshire.

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.

It is thought the asylum seekers will be encouraged to relocate and rebuild their lives in Rwanda, rather than the UK, with more information on how the arrangement will work anticipated in the coming days.

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Mr Johnson will say that the number of people making the perilous crossing of the Channel could reach 1,000 a day within weeks, after around 600 arrived on Wednesday, and 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.

While not anticipated to be an easy task or without challenges, officials and ministers are said to believe the plan will allow the UK to better support those fleeing oppression, persecution and tyranny through safe and legal routes while also controlling the border. However, British Red Cross executive director Zoe Abrams said the humanitarian network was "profoundly concerned" about the plans to "send traumatised people halfway round the world to Rwanda".

"The financial and human cost will be considerable; evidence from where offshoring has been implemented elsewhere shows it leads to profound human suffering, plus the bill that taxpayers will be asked to foot is likely to be huge," she added.

The expected deal with Rwanda comes after other locations touted - including Ascension Island, Albania and Gibraltar - were rejected, at times angrily by the nations suggested.

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Peers could mount fresh resistance to the measure, having already inflicted a series of defeats to the Government's Nationality and Borders Bill. The legislation is currently in a tussle between the Commons and the Lords after peers defeated ministers, including with a demand that offshore asylum claims should be subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament.

How much will it cost?

The estimated cost of the arrangement between Rwanda and the UK is about £120 million, Wales Secretary Simon Hart has said.

"About £120 million is the estimated cost of this particular arrangement,” he told Sky News. “But again, that's a figure which will alter depending how well the scheme worked."

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Mr Hart rejected Sky News presenter Kay Burley's claim the small boats will instead be overloaded with women, saying: "That is precisely what this whole scheme is designed to deter, and precisely why we want to work with the charitable sector, with the Refugee Council, to ensure that that does not happen.

"This has taken nine months of careful negotiation with the Rwandan government,” he added. "This is going to have the opportunity [to break] up the criminal gangs, disincentivising.... the safeguarding, the interests of people who have risked everything to go on this journey. That is what this proposal is."

Reactions to Rwanda asylum seeker plan

Scotland's Health Secretary accused the UK Government of being "institutionally racist" over proposals to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.

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Ian Blackford, the SNP's Westminster leader, has described the Government's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as "evil".

"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,” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "This is not the mark of a civilised society. It's evil.”

Labour has 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" and "shockingly ill-conceived".

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

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

The chief executive of Refugee Action, Tim Naor Hilton, accused the Government of "offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe's former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help some of the most vulnerable people on the planet". He added that the UK should have learnt from "Australia's horrific experiment" of sending refugees "thousands of miles away" to camps where they experienced "rampant abuse" as well as "rape, murder and suicide".

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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