Suella Braverman: UK Home Secretary visits Rwanda to discuss deportation plan
British Home Secretary Suella Braverman arrived in Rwanda on Saturday to discuss a controversial deal that will see the UK deport asylum seekers deemed to have arrived in the African nation illegally.
The program is mired in legal troubles – no one has yet been deported – and Braverman’s visit has been criticized for inviting journalists from right-wing headlines to accompany her, excluding the liberals.
Before leaving, Braverman reaffirmed his commitment to the program, saying it would “act as a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal travel,” PA reported.
Braverman landed in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, where she was greeted by Rwandan Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Clementine Mukeka and British High Commissioner to Rwanda Omar Daair.
The visit comes 11 months after the British government announced its intention to send thousands of migrants deemed to have entered the country illegally to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed.
The government insisted the scheme was aimed at disrupting smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea journey across the English Channel to England from France.
The plan, which would see the UK pay Rwanda $145m (£120m) over the next five years, has faced backlash from NGOs, asylum seekers and a civil service union who questioned its legality, leading the government to delay its execution.
No flights have yet taken place, after the first scheduled flight to Rwanda was stopped at the eleventh hour in June, due to an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), followed by months of legal challenges that have since stalled the program.
The UK government has made stopping migrants arriving in small boats on its shores a top priority.
The Illegal Migration Bill, which is being debated in Parliament, gives the government the right to deport anyone arriving in the UK illegally. In many cases, there are no safe and legal routes to the UK, meaning many asylum seekers can only arrive illegally.
Under the bill, people arriving in the UK “will not be eligible to have their asylum claims assessed even if they are refugees from war-torn societies”, said Alexander Betts, director of the Center for Refugee Studies at the University of Oxford.
Instead, they will face immediate deportation either to their country of origin or to a third country, such as Rwanda.
But there are fears that the proposed legislation could be illegal.
“When you open the bill, on the front page, there’s a big red flag that says: This could be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights,” Betts told CNN.
He added that the proposed bill has “historical significance”, since it amounts to “a liberal and democratic state abandoning the principle of the right of asylum”.
The UN Human Rights Court has warned that the bill, if passed, would constitute a “manifest breach” of the Refugee Convention.
Some also fear that the bill is unworkable. The Rwandan government said it could only process 1,000 asylum seekers during the initial five-year period.
In contrast, an estimated 45,755 people arrived in the UK via small boats crossing the English Channel in 2022 alone.