The government’s Bill declaring Rwanda to be a safe place for refugees seeking asylum returns to the House of Commons this week, for its Committee Stage.
This Bill – the “Safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) Bill” is an attempt to ram through the cruel and unworkable plan to forcibly transfer people seeking sanctuary here to Rwanda, in the face of the Supreme Court’s Judgement that that there is too great a risk that asylum claims would not be fairly considered in Rwanda. This is a profoundly troubling moment for British politics. In the Rwanda plan, the government conceived of a horrifying and inhuman scheme, the piece de resistance in a matrix of highly impractical policies the core purpose of which is performative cruelty towards people who have lost everything and seek only to rebuild their lives in safety.
Confronted with the court’s finding, based on detailed consideration of evidence, that Rwanda is not safe for refugees, the government’s response is to pursue a law stating that it is – to craft a legal fiction. The disregard for evidence – indeed, for sheer reality – in the making of policy could hardly be starker. This Bill plays fast and loose with both domestic and international law. All of this is awful. What remains most horrifying is that our political culture has reached a point where the forced transfer of people seeking sanctuary here is being considered at all, let alone pursued so theatrically at so high a cost to our democratic institutions.
The plan to forcibly transfer women, men, children seeking safety here to Rwanda is a cash for humans scheme. It utterly disregards the value of human dignity and even human life. It denies the common ties that bind human beings and give us a duty of care towards each other. It abrogates any sense that our society has a duty to take a share in the global responsibility of providing sanctuary to refugees. And, concretely, were it ever enacted, it would destroy lives and plunge refugees into fresh danger. It should be unthinkable. Yet there is a risk that ideas like this become normalised, as the opposition begins to talk about outsourcing asylum processing as an ‘alternative’ to the Rwanda plan. If we let it, this could become the mainstream of our political discourse. We must not let this happen. This cannot be the new normal. This is not the society we want to be.
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