How the UK plans to export its asylum seekers

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Two weeks ago the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced a plan to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers on a one-way ticket from Britain to Rwanda. That day, in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Johnson’s home secretary, Priti Patel, signed the controversial UK-Rwanda agreement with the country’s foreign minister.

The UK government says the new plan will deter people from making the risky journey across the English Channel and clamp down on human trafficking. But human-rights organisations, church leaders and MPs across the political spectrum say the plan is cruel and unworkable and will only lead to more human suffering and chaos.

The Irish Times’ London Editor, Denis Staunton, joins today’s In the News podcast to explain the details of UK-Rwanda deal, what it means for migrants arriving in Britain via unauthorised routes and why the Conservative Party has decided to push this project now.

“A lot of the people who vote Conservative and who voted for Brexit wanted immigration to be controlled, and this”—boats crossing the English Channel—”is a very visible expression of the fact that immigration is not being controlled,” said Staunton. “You’ve got local elections coming up in Britain on May 5th, and so the government wanted to be seen to be taking real action against this.”


Despite assertions by Patel that Rwanda is one of the world’s safest countries, the nation is run by an authoritarian ruler, The Irish Times’s Africa correspondent, Sally Hayden, told the podcast. “There isn’t a free civil society in Rwanda, there isn’t opposition—at least that don’t get harassed—there isn’t a free media, and there are human-rights abuses. So for Paul Kagame”—Rwanda’s president—”it’s a way of white-washing or avoiding scrutiny of other things happening in the country.”

Today on In the News, what is the UK-Rwanda deal, and what will it mean for asylum seekers who reach Britain?

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast