UK minister says sending migrants to Rwanda is ‘not a punishment’ after court ruling
United Kingdom Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Monday that the government's contentious plan to deport tens of thousands of migrants to Rwanda is "not a punishment" for the refugees affected.
"Being relocated to Rwanda is not a punishment, but an innovative way of addressing a major problem," Braverman said in an address to the Parliament's House of Commons.
The statement followed a High Court ruling that Britain's plan to send migrants more than 4,000 miles away to Rwanda is lawful.
The plan, first announced in April, is intended to deter people from crossing the English Channel into Britain. Under the proposal the U.K. will pay over $100 million to fly migrants to Rwanda, where they will have their asylum claims processed and receive access to opportunities including education and training.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to resume the effort in a move to address the record number of migrants arriving in small boats.
"If you come to the U.K. illegally, you will not have the right to stay and we will be able to return you to your own county if it's safe," Sunak said from a summit in the Latvian capital Riga, the BBC reported.
Groups representing asylum seekers say the government is shifting its obligation to help refugees to a country with a record of human rights abuses. They argue the policy won't do anything to deter people from seeking refuge in the U.K.
Emilie McDonnell, a U.K. advocacy coordinator with Human Rights Watch, said the ruling "sets a very dangerous precedent for Europe & beyond ... at a time when there is a grave need for countries like the UK to do their fair share to be safe havens for refugees."
Rwanda President Paul Kagame addressed the refugee deal in an interview with Semafor during last week's US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington. He said Rwanda has processed asylum seekers from others countries before, including Israel and Libya.
The "U.K. is the one that approached us," Kagame said. "When that [court case] is sorted out, we shall have them, we will process them, and these people will go wherever they want to go."
Data shows Albanians make up one third of the migrants crossing the channel into Britain and applying for asylum, with over 12,000 arriving this year.
Last week Sunak announced a new agreement with the Albanian government, saying the U.K. will quickly turn away more Albanian asylum seekers, and "significantly raise the threshold someone has to meet to be considered a modern slave."
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has previously accused the U.K. of creating a false link between Albanian immigrants and crime, and said Britain shouldn't blame Albania for its own "failed policies" on immigration.