Unjust and Unjustifiable: The Government’s Rwanda Plan and Its Consequences

After the Home Affairs Select Committee publishes their report on the Government’s controversial policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, Antony Tucker assesses the flaws of this scheme.

Ever since it was first sketched out, the Home Office's plans to send those claiming asylum in the United Kingdom to Rwanda has been swept up in a storm of opposition. Now, the Home Affairs Select Committee has published an initial report - Channel crossings, migration and asylum - that should be the wake-up call the next government needs to dump this policy.

It exposes the lie - used for so long by Priti Patel and her friends to distract from Boris Johnson's lawbreaking - that migrants themselves somehow broke our asylum system. Instead, it shows the Home Office's flawed leadership making up policy on the hoof, without evidence, without care, and often without even asking other government departments (such as the MoD) before going to the press.

All this faults, and more, are ingrained within the Home Secretary's flagship policy of sending refugees to Rwanda. The headlines that Priti Patel sought so dearly talked about a deterrence effect; yet none has been demonstrated. Long-term savings were pledged, with no basis in fact - indeed, the Australian example shows that each person deported so shamefully would cost taxpayers upwards of £300k. Likewise, there is little if any faith that the Home Office will not simply leave those it deports to rot.

The deeper you read into the Home Affairs Select Committee's findings, the more the reasons to drop the Rwanda plan pile up. People traffickers are using the Government's harsh rhetoric to frighten refugees into making small boat crossings now, rather than wait for another way of coming to Britain, with the threat of further clampdowns fuelling the very trade in human lives that is leading to so many deaths at sea.

On top of this, what life will be like on the ground for those sent to Rwanda is also deeply worrying. The Home Office has itself said that LGBT+ asylum seekers will be at risk of violence and discrimination - but has decided to send them there all the same. More broadly, the housing, health and schooling of those deported will fall between the cracks, with the UK telling Rwanda to pick up the tab but the UNHCR stating plainly that these would stay the responsibility of this country.

Morally, practically, financially: the failings are manifold and the Rwanda plan should be stopped in its tracks. That both would-be Tory leaders are pledging to go even further with their war on refugees by expanding this policy is not merely mistaken - it is shameful.

With first decisions taking over 420 days for an adult and 550 for a child, the backlog of more than 125,000 people trapped waiting tells us that the asylum system is broken. Even with far fewer asylum seekers coming to Britain that the peaks seen twenty years ago, the numbers left in limbo are only growing.

Once again, we need to underline that it is not migrants who are to blame. A lack of staff to sort cases; badly-drawn up IT systems that slow every process to a crawl; and too little care (leading to wrong decisions and long appeals) have all come together to bring us where things stand today. Ministers at the Home Office have to take responsibility for the mess which they have let grow for too long now, instead of diverting their budget for their own shameful pet projects.

Knowing all of this, the Rwanda policy is more than a mistake. At best foolhardy, at worst reckless, the Home Office are wilfully throwing funds away trying to whip up yet more hatred against refugees through an unproven and likely illegal plan that will only worsen the flaws in the system. Instead of cutting the backlogs that cost so much in money and human misery, Priti Patel and her followers are making those most in need and least to blame pay the price for the failures of those in power.

Antony Tucker is a Labour and Co-Operative councillor on Coventry City Council, as well as Political Education and Training Officer for his CLP and a 2019 Parliamentary candidate. He is 26 years old and lives in Coventry. He tweets at @antforlabour.


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