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Rwanda policy faces heavy criticism as illegal immigration rises

The port of Dover
Channel crossings have spiked recently despite the Rwanda policy (Photo: Shamaan Freeman-Powell)

After the Government introduced new laws that make it a criminal offence to knowingly enter the UK illegally, born out of the Rwanda Policy, there have been serious concerns over the lawfulness and ethicality of the legislation.

Home Secretary Priti Patel pushed for the policy which will send male migrants who come illegally to the UK 4000 miles to Rwanda for asylum processing, where they will be encouraged to stay and make a living.

Despite this, the numbers of migrants making the journey to the UK has not stalled but rather increased with several hundred making the journey recently, taking the total to over 7000 this year.

There are several different factors which could explain this; We wanted to get an understanding of how this issue is playing out, and spoke to a journalist who has been covering the story on the ground.

Sky News correspondent Shamaan Freeman-Powell has been reporting the story from Dover, seeing first-hand how border control is intercepting the small boats, crammed with desperate people seeking asylum in the UK.

She says:

"The government is under a lot of pressure to drive down the numbers arriving on small boats, as the last few years has seen numbers reach record highs.

"But the common feeling among human rights and immigration lawyers is that there are not currently enough 'legal and safe' routes for Asylum Seekers to travel on, which could explain why we are seeing so many risk their lives on those tiny plastic boats that are not fit for purpose,

"Whilst the government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is highly controversial, it does still have a lot of support from people who have been desperate for the government to do something about the numbers of people arriving in this country via unsafe routes.

Shamaan Freeman-Powell is a Sky news political correspondent (Photo: Stuart Brock)

Shamaan added:

"However, it still isn't clear how the scheme will work in real terms. For example, those who do go to Rwanda for processing and get refugee status granted will have to stay in Rwanda, but those who do not get asylum status - what will happen to them? it is a criminal offence to 'knowingly enter the UK illegally' now, so will they be flown back to the UK to face prison? it is not yet clear."

With the Tory party already under serious pressure with the party gate scandal dragging on and claims of inappropriate behaviour in the Commons surfacing, it could be time that Britons are becoming fed up with the Conservatives.

The immigration policy has been raised as a point of concern as a breach of human rights, and it could be the final straw for some voters.

The conservative party may appeal to a lot of voters who believe something needs to be done regarding illegal immigration and to those who live in areas directly affected, but even out of those who believe something needs to be done about the issue, many do not agree with the conservatives Rwanda policy.

Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive at Freedom from Torture, said:

“Most people in this country want the UK to help people fleeing torture, war, and persecution, but this neo-colonial scheme instead pushes our responsibility for protecting them onto a developing country in exchange for cash. It is immoral, unworkable and flies in the face of our international legal duties, which is why we are preparing a legal challenge to the policy.

"With so many practical and legal question marks hanging over this inhumane scheme, the government's announcement will cause immense distress to vulnerable people who have already suffered so much.

“Many torture survivors we treat would face expulsion under this system because they had no alternative but to take dangerous routes to reach safety here and they will now be living in fear of being removed to a country acknowledged by the UK government to be a torturing state."

Over 75% of people who travel via illegal routes are accepted as asylum seekers in the UK so there is a glaring question over what will happen now and leaves a task for the government to solve quickly.

It also highlights the importance of equality within the law as the legislation is geared towards channel crossings and illegal routes but what about residents within the UK who have expired or cancelled visas?

Whilst the matter isn’t connected on the surface, Australian government data showed that American citizens made up the largest group of ‘unlawful non-citizens’ in the country, but not even one was held in Australian immigration detention.

This shows that the legal framework can often be distracted by government policy and other issues that dominate and so there isn’t a fair proportionate application of the law, something the UK government needs to be clearer on with their definition of ‘illegal’.

Many if not all the travellers across the channel are fleeing unimaginable conditions leaving them traumatized, and so sending them half-way across the world to Rwanda seems in complete breach of human rights.

Freedom from Torture help support refugees and are planning to fight the government’s Rwanda policy and have pledged an incredible £46,000 through donations to help.

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