LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Britain’s main Catholic refugee agency says a UK government plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda shows “a craven disregard for humanity and dignity.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the proposal on Thursday, saying it would be aimed at single men illegally crossing the English Channel on boats and would provide “safe and legal routes for asylum while disrupting the business model of [human trafficking] gangs.”
Rwanda said it would resettle any applicant who could prove their refugee status, although several refugee agencies have questioned the human rights record of the East African country.
In a statement, the Jesuit Refugee Service UK said the government is aiming “to turn our backs on people seeking sanctuary here, removing them without even examining their claims.”
“They do this in the face of horrifying evidence that offshore processing fosters human rights abuses. Further, these plans seek to cut off routes for refugees to find sanctuary and settle in the UK. They abandon any sense of care towards refugees,” the statement continues, calling the proposal “cruel and inhuman.”
JRS UK also objected to the announcement the Royal Navy will be used to try and stop migrants from crossing the English Channel, and the ongoing push to pass the Nationality and Borders Bill, which the agency says “the primary purpose of which is to punish refugees for the realities of forced migration.”
“These moves represent yet more fortification against those seeking safety, more walls where any sense of common humanity, or any sense of care, calls for bridges,” the statement continues.
“And they enact a further, brutal ghettoization of asylum seekers. They go to great lengths to prevent encounter or community between refugees and the rest of society. Our government already often detains asylum seekers,” JRS UK says.
“Now, in the face of soaring costs of living and growing use of foodbanks, the government plans to expend vast sums of public money sending people who simply wish to rebuild their lives to another continent, where they are likely to be incarcerated. Furthermore, many of those who cross the Channel to seek sanctuary in the UK specifically do so to reunite with family. These proposals risk tearing family apart once more,” adds the statement.
“As Christians, we must be horrified by the absence of any sense of common humanity. We must pray for urgent repentance and a change of course.”
A JRS UK spokesperson told Crux the agency has “serious concerns that these proposals risk contravening the Refugee Convention by penalizing refugees for mode of travel; and that they carry far too great a risk of leading to human rights abuses,” and they “seriously risk a situation where people’s asylum claims were not fairly considered at all.”
“Offshore processing has often proved unfeasible. Even if these proposals prove literally possible, they would be an extraordinarily difficult and costly procedure, and it is hard to see how this accords with government’s stated objective of streamlining the asylum process,” the spokesperson said.
The JRS representative also objected to sending asylum seekers to another continent and to a country much less economically developed than the UK.
“It is morally reprehensible to abandon our own duty to share in global provision for refugees, as this proposal does. It is doubly wrong to do so by offloading that duty to a country with much less stability and many, many fewer resources. This process also does nothing to safeguard people’s basic rights once in Rwanda,” the spokesperson told Crux.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome