Cross-Channel migrants in UK reject Rwanda deportation plan | Daily News Byte

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If the UK government has its way, tens of thousands of migrants arriving on England’s southeast coast each year, after crossing the Channel in small boats, will face swift deportation to Rwanda.

Although the controversial plan is on hold amid legal challenges, some who have completed the perilous journey said they were scared by the prospect.

“It’s really horrible,” Abdulhakim, a 24-year-old Ethiopian who arrived in April, told AFP outside a London hotel where he has since stayed.

“In April, we were talking about it,” he added, adding that all migrants in the discussion were “terrified” of a stalled policy that would be “devastating” for them.

“Rwanda is not a safe place — there was genocide!”

The UK government insists that the East African country, which carried out a genocide against the Tutsi population by Rwandan Hutu extremist groups in 1994, is out of date.

Ministers claim it is now a safe place, but hope the plan will act as a significant deterrent to people trying to reach Britain by small boat.

A deal costing more than £120 million ($145 million) with Kigali, agreed in April by former prime minister Boris Johnson, will see all people who arrive on British soil illegally be sent there.

They will be taken to East Africa before their asylum claims even begin to be considered and, if asylum is eventually granted, they will remain in Rwanda rather than return to the UK.

The policy will apply regardless of where applicants come from.

– ‘nervous’ –

On Monday, the High Court in London ruled that it was legal following a legal challenge by migrants and campaigners, telling the government it hoped to resume flights as soon as possible.

Although further legal action by protesters first appears likely, the mood among migrants already in Britain is alarming.

Mohammed, a 24-year-old Sudanese man who arrived by boat two years ago, said he “couldn’t sleep anymore” as the court battle began.

“This plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is very scary,” said Amir, an Iranian Kurd, another asylum-seeker staying in a London hotel – which sits in the shadow of the glittering towers of the financial district – while claiming asylum.

“It makes people nervous at the hotel. What can they do there?”

He came to the UK four years ago, in a lorry, and is confident the policy will not affect him. The 24-year-old is hopeful that a decision on his status will be made soon.

But after spending so many years surrounded by migrants fleeing war or persecution, he doubts the threat of deportation to Rwanda will stem the flow of illegal arrivals.

“It won’t stop them. They will still come,” Amir said.

In 2022, more than 45,000 people crossed the Channel – one of the world’s busiest waterways – on small inflatable vessels, which are often ill-suited to the rough conditions found there.

At least four died when their boat capsized earlier this month, while dozens drowned in another disaster a year ago.

Others, eager to reach Britain, also pile into lorries heading there from mainland Europe.

– Legal avenues ‘impossible’ –

Opponents of the Rwanda plan argue that it fails to tackle the biggest problem: the lack of safe legal pathways for asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.

At a parliamentary committee hearing earlier this week, the UK’s right-wing Home Secretary Suella Braverman insisted the country was “too liberal” in its refugee policies.

“We must have a limit on our capacity in the UK to accept people fleeing difficult circumstances,” she said.

But Braverman struggled to detail how people fleeing war and persecution could legally arrive in Britain without family members already present.

A senior official offered her registered routes through UN agencies as an option.

But the evacuees at the hotel were skeptical.

“It’s impossible to come legally,” Abdulhakim said.

“Maybe with a student visa, but I couldn’t afford to study,” he added, noting that he didn’t even have a passport.

Amir said it was impossible to claim asylum in his native Iran.

“I’m Kurdish, do you think Iran will give me a passport?” he said.

Although Rwanda has received little support, Mary, a 23-year-old Iranian who left the country with her husband two years ago, said she would still like him in her country.

“If I go back to Iran, I will be arrested,” she said.

“I don’t know anything about Rwanda. I just know it’s in Africa.”

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