Britain, Rwanda defend asylum-seekers plan at UN agencies

AP , Thursday 19 May 2022

Britain and Rwanda on Thursday faced down two U.N. agencies that have sharply criticized their controversial plan in which British expects to send some asylum-seekers from the U.K. to the African country.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta and Britain s Home Secretary Priti Patel,
Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, left, and Britain s Home Secretary Priti Patel, right, speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 19, 2022. AP


In an interview with The Associated Press before meeting top officials from the U.N. human rights and refugee agencies, Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta acknowledged it was ``fine that they be concerned,'' adding that the discussion was aimed ``to bring them on board'' to work with the two countries.

The U.N. refugee agency chief, on Twitter, sounded unconvinced.

Under the plan unveiled last month, British officials said they will send to migrants arriving in the U.K. illegally - often as stowaways or in small boats crossing the English Channel - to Rwanda. There the migrants' asylum claims will be processed, and if successful, the migrants will stay there.

U.N. officials and other critics _ particularly in the two countries _ raised human rights concerns and warned such a move goes against the international Refugee Convention.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said Britain had seen over 20,000 people enter illegally over the last year, and insisted that her Conservative government _ along with Rwanda _ was ``finding new innovative solutions to global problems`` amid a crisis of illegal immigration. She insisted the plan was about saving lives of people taken by smugglers on often-treacherous journeys to try to reach Britain.

``I'm afraid other organizations and other countries, you know, are not coming up with alternatives -- and the status quo is simply not acceptable anymore,'' she said.

The meetings come a day after Patel's office, hosting Biruta in London, announced that a ``first tranche of illegal migrants with no right to be in the UK have now been notified'' of the British government's intention to relocate them to Rwanda.

Patel declined to specify how many people would be in that first group, how they arrived in Britain, or how many people overall might be sent to Rwanda under the plan, saying ``we don't share our operational details.''

She decried ``a lot of deliberate misinformation'' about the people who would be sent to Rwanda. She also touted her country's ``outstanding record of resettling people and hosting migrants and refugees'' - noting 15,000 people were brought from Afghanistan to Britain and the issuance of 100,000 visas to Ukrainians.

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