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United Kingdom to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda

LONDON (AFP) – Britain is to send migrants and asylum-seekers who cross the Channel thousands of miles away to Rwanda, according to a controversial deal announced yesterday as the government tries to clamp down on record numbers of people making the perilous journey.

The plan swiftly drew the ire of opposition politicians who accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of trying to distract from his being fined for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules, while rights groups slammed the project as “inhumane”.

Johnson, who was expected to detail the plan later, was elected partly on promises to curb illegal immigration, but his term has so far been marked by record numbers of Channel crossings.

Ghana and Rwanda had previously been mentioned as possible locations for the United Kingdom (UK) to outsource the processing of migrants, but Ghana in January denied involvement. Instead, Kigali yesterday announced that it had signed a multi-million-dollar deal to do the job, during a visit by British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

“Rwanda welcomes this partnership with the UK to host asylum seekers and migrants, and offer them legal pathways to residence” in the East African nation, Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said in a statement.

The deal with Rwanda will be funded by the UK to the tune of up to GBP120 million (USD157 million), with migrants “integrated into communities across the country”, it said.

“This is about ensuring that people are protected, respected, and empowered to further their own ambitions and settle permanently in Rwanda if they choose,” said Biruta.

Refugee Action accused the government of “offshoring its responsibilities onto Europe’s former colonies instead of doing our fair share to help the vulnerable people”.