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A cruel response to migration

Image in street of refugee welcome sign

by Mohamed Arkou

Governments have an obligation under international human rights law to protect refugees and asylum seekers, and this includes providing a fair system that safeguards basic freedoms and human rights. One that also ensures that asylum seekers will not to be returned to danger or placed in situations where their rights will be compromised.

The UK’s recently announced plan to tackle immigration by sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is unethical and breaches international law, on the grounds that Rwanda is not responsible enough to protect migrants’ rights.

Asylum seekers who come to the UK are trying to escape cruel circumstances in their own countries, including persecution, conflicts or famine. Those who take the risk to get to the UK fear that safety and security in their home countries (especially in Africa) are fragile. Any attempt to send them back to Africa is a cruel response.

Rwanda is not responsible enough to protect migrants’ rights

When you think about Rwanda, the first thing comes to mind is the 1994 genocide and its historically bad human rights record. There is ample evidence to support this argument. In July 2021, the UK government itself criticised Rwanda over its failure to protect human rights and to provide support for victims of human trafficking.

In its 2019 report, Human Rights Watch reported that in 2018 Rwandan police killed at least 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo by firing live ammunition outside the UNHCR’s office in the Western Provence.

Over 60 refugees were arrested, accused of participating in unauthorised demonstrations and other crimes. According to HRW, the Rwandan authorities used illegal and arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment to extract confessions from detainees.

The Rwandan authorities used illegal and arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment

It is the responsibility of a government to take measures to protect its border, but governments should also meet their obligations under international law to reduce the negative impact of these actions on human rights. I wish to remind the UK government that it is responsible for protecting asylum seekers when their own countries fail to do so, under the concept of the “Responsibility to Protect”.

Therefore, the notion of removing the asylum seekers from UK to Rwanda will only add fuel to the fire. Instead, they should have signed an agreement on tackling the push factors that force those asylum seekers to flee their countries in the first place.

Main Photo by Ra Dragon on Unsplash