United Kingdom and Rwanda deal for asylum seekers


    In News

    • The United Kingdom has signed a deal with Rwanda to send some asylum seekers to the East African nation.

    What is the new plan?

    • People who arrive in Britain as stowaways in trucks or boats illegally may now be relocated to Rwanda.
      • Once there, they will be assessed for eventual resettlement in the African nation.
    • The plan aims to improve the UK’s asylum system: UK has been struggling to deal with a combination of real humanitarian crises and evil people smugglers profiteering by exploiting the system for their own gains.
      • The scheme would break the business model of traffickers and disrupt the flow of illegal migration.
    • The UK said that it may start sending asylum seekers on one-way flights.
      • Those who tried to jump the queue or abuse our system will find no automatic path to settlement in our country but rather be swiftly and humanely removed to a safe third country or their country of origin.
    • The UK has paid the Rwandan government £120 million for housing and integrating the migrants as part of the pilot scheme, which will initially last for five years.

    Data on how many refugees enter the UK via the channel?

    • Last year over 28,000 people entered the UK in boats, up from 8,500 in 2020.
    • Migrants have travelled to the UK, using northern France as a launching point, by hiding in trucks and ferries.

    Significance of the Plan

    • The agreement seeks to ensure that people are protected, respected, and empowered to further their own ambitions and settle permanently in Rwanda if they choose.
    • They will be given the support including up to five years of training, integration, accommodation, health care, so that they can resettle and thrive.
    • It is essentially part of a wider strategy to bring down the number of people entering the UK by crossing the channel in small boats.
    • Rwanda will invest in infrastructure to support the future influx of migrants.
    • The UK was already spending almost £5 million every day on hotels. In comparison to that, the UK’s £120 million payment to the Rwandan government for the first five years seems far more feasible.

    Why has it been criticised?

    • Inhumane and expensive exercise: The UK-Rwanda deal has not been popular among human rights and refugee organisations, which see it as an inhumane and expensive exercise.
    • Waste of money: Critics of the scheme have called it a waste of public money.
    • People treated like commodities: Highlighting the dangers of transferring refugees and asylum seekers to third countries without sufficient safeguards, the United Nations Refugee Agency said they must not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.
    • Contrary to the Refugee Convention: Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.
    • Rwanda has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents. 

    Do any other countries send asylum seekers overseas?

    • Several other countries including Australia, Israel and Denmark have been sending asylum seekers overseas.
    • Australia has been making full use of offshore detention centres since 2001.
      • People were relocated to places like Nauru and Papua New Guinea between 2012 and 2019.
    • Israel has also chosen to deal with a growing influx of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants from places like Sudan and Eritrea by striking deals with third countries. 

    India’s Refugee Policy

    • India’s approach towards refugees is customary and a dynamic one having regard to prevailing socio-political conditions. Though India is not a party to 1951 convention or 1967 protocol it acceded to various Human Rights treaties including the UNHCR and it is obliged to protect the rights of refugees.
    • As per Indian law, there is no law to deal with the refugee, both illegal migrants & refugee categories of people are viewed as one and the same and are covered under the Foreigners Act, 1946. 
    • The constitution of India protects the refugees’ right to life with dignity that includes right against solitary confinement and custodial violence, right to medical assistance and shelter.