We wrote back on 26th April that we should say no to the Rwanda asylum plan. The first flight was cancelled at the eleventh hour last night, but we should still keep saying no to this scheme.
Back in April we wrote:
And how can it possibly be right for a wealthy developed nation such as the UK to seek to off load our responsibilities to protect people seeking asylum to a developing country? Surely as a nation we should not be looking to buy our way out of our international treaty responsibilities to protect people seeking asylum?
And we stand by those words. And we were heartened to see the letter from all of the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords (the senior Bishops in the Church of England). It makes a compelling case against this proposal. Their first sentence in their letter demands our attention:
Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.
Jesse Norman MP, in his letter to the Prime Minister on 6th June, wrote that “the Rwanda policy is ugly, likely to be counterproductive and of doubtful legality.”
Indeed the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has questioned the legality of this scheme under international law.
UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards. Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.
There is a strong moral and legal case against this proposal. And there are alternatives to address the dangers of people trying to cross the Channel. As we wrote back in April:
Instead, we should put our collective energy into working with other countries to ensure that there are safe routes for people seeking safety in the UK and across Europe.