Chief executive Sabir Zazai, himself a refugee who fled Afghanistan and arrived in the UK in the back of a lorry, warned that the government’s decision to model its asylum policy on Australia’s, which it condemned as a “failed system mired in human rights abuses”, was a “breach of human rights”.
The government is today set to announce multi million-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".
The plans come as the government continues to roll out its Home for Ukraine scheme, which sees Ukrainians fleeing the war the right to live in the UK for up to three years if they are matched with a British host.
Mr Zazai said: “We are appalled by today’s announcement that the UK Government will seek to offshore the UK’s asylum system to Rwanda. This policy is a very clear breach of international law. It is sate sanctioned violence in practice.
“The timing of this announcement is shamefully political. As pressure mounts on those at the top of this government, they are using the rights and the lives of refugees to deflect from their own political woes. This is utterly reprehensible. That this government is choosing to model its asylum policy on Australia’s, a failed system mired by well documented serious human rights abuses, is shocking.”
He added: “Once again, the government is stepping back from its legal and moral obligations and shunting responsibilities onto other bodies, in this case, a country which has only a fraction of the wealth and resources. A truly global Britain would proudly play a leading role in international protection, and create a fair and efficient asylum system of which we can all be proud and which would cost far less than throwing money at this doomed venture.
“The truth is, any of us could be forced to flee our homes at short notice. Any of us would want to be treated with dignity and respect at one of the most challenging times of our life. Yet this is increasingly very far from the reality a person seeking protection in the UK.”
Many refugees from countries such as Afghanistan are currently housed in hotels for months while their claims are processed. It is believed the new scheme would mainly be used for single men who cross the Channel.
Mr Zazai said: “The UK cannot claim to stand with Ukraine at the same time as it rolls out a regime of punishment and violence under the guise of deterrence for people who are only looking to find safety and rebuild their lives.
“By bringing in poorly thought out and shoddily operated targeted schemes to bring a very small number of people to safety from specific conflicts, the UK Government is moving to a model of patchwork provision of supporting certain refugees. This cannot be a replacement for the universal right to asylum which is enshrined in international law or working in partnership with the UN refugee agency to play our part in resettling refugees from around the world.
“Today’s announcement is a difficult and upsetting one for us and for our friends, colleagues and neighbours. We will continue to stand together with them, and with people fleeing war, terror and persecution from around the world, and fight this cruel legislation.”
The accommodation in Rwanda is believed to have enough space for around 100 people at a time and to process up to 500 a year. Nearly 29,000 migrants crossed the Channel in 2021.
Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, a refugee homelessness charity, said: “First this government forces war refugees to apply for visas. Now it plans on sending them to Rwanda. The refugee convention is effectively dead in this country and the UK is acting like a rogue state.
"Offshore processing centres will simply persecute and torture those who are already persecuted and tortured. It will inflict countless misery with next to no public scrutiny. This won’t deter human smugglers, it will embolden them, more people will drown or suffocate as desperate refugees attempt ever more dangerous journeys to reach here. The government should be creating safe humanitarian corridors for refugees, not offloading it’s responsibilities under the convention to other countries.”