A group of Cumbrian charities and organisations collectively called Cumbria Race Equity Network have issued a statement on the UK Government’s Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda.
The partnership would see the UK send those seeking asylum to Rwanda while their applications are processed.
The asylum seekers that would be sent are those that are deemed to have arrived into the country by illegal means.
In the statement the Cumbria Race Equity Network outline their reasons for being against the transportation of asylum seekers to the African country.
Writing: “We, the Cumbrian Race Equity Network (CREN), a coalition of charities and organisations which stand for race equity in Cumbria, are voicing our opposition to the government’s policy of deporting refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda.
“We object to this policy because:
“It’s cruel: People who have undergone unimaginable suffering in search of safety will be forcibly sent to a country thousands of miles away, with no way back – simply because they had no choice but to take an independent route to the UK.
“This policy will tear families apart and destroy lives. We know that asylum seekers currently living in hotels in Carlisle and Barrow are terrified of being deported and this is causing them severe anxiety and distress.
“It’s immoral: Rwanda has a very poor record on human rights, and there have been reports that deported asylum seekers may be forced to join the Rwandan army.
“This deportation policy also means that the UK is failing to fulfil its duties under the Refugee Convention. Shamefully, the nation that once saved thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis (through the Kindertransport) is now persecuting refugees.
“It’s racist: The contrast with the welcome extended to Ukrainian refugees could not be more glaring. The UK government has encouraged members of the community to host those fleeing from the war in Ukraine, and thousands have risen to this challenge, demonstrating that the British public are capable of great warmth and generosity.
“BUT all refugees should be treated fairly and compassionately, whether they are black, brown or white.
“It’s not cost-effective: The UK government has already paid the Rwandan government £120 million to host around 200 asylum seekers.
“This massive sum does not include an additional estimated £20,000 to £30,000, to cover flights and accommodation per individual deported.
“It cannot seriously be argued that this arrangement represents value for the British taxpayer.
“It won’t work: This policy won’t achieve its stated aim of reducing the numbers of people risking their lives crossing the English Channel in small boats. Between 14th April (when the Rwanda policy was first announced) and the end of June, 7,432 asylum seekers arrived in small boats.
“This was an increase of more than 60% compared to the same period in 2021, which saw 4,554 people making the same journey. Border Force union officials have predicted that about 60,000 migrants could arrive in small boats by the end of 2022 (more than double the number in 2021).
“It may be illegal: The Supreme Court hearing on the legality of the Rwanda plan has now been postponed to September 2022, and there are reports that the government will not attempt further deportation flights until after the Conservative leadership contest.
“We, at CREN, remain firmly opposed to the Rwanda plan and any proposed extension of it.
“We believe this misconceived policy should be scrapped, along with the associated Nationality and Borders Bill and plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act.
“Instead, we call on the government to create a humane, just and effective system that protects the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers and fulfils the UK’s duties under the Refugee Convention.
“We believe the only practical, ethical way to reduce the number of people risking their lives in the English Channel is to enable asylum seekers to have their cases heard in France.
“Those whose claims are upheld should then be allowed to travel to the UK using safe, legal routes.
“Signed, Marcia Reid Fotheringham, JP, DL and Guy Tirvengadum, CREN Co-Chairs
“And Cumbria Race Equity Network members: Anna Smalley (Deputy Chair), Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Virginia Taylor, Leader Eden District Council and Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities and Localities, Westmorland and Furness Shadow Authority, Saj Ghafoor OBE, CEO Multicultural Cumbria, Kelly Davis, West Cumbria Refugee Support Network, Sarah Wilson, Penrith & Eden Refugee Network, Kim Farr, Furness Refugee Support, Dave Plumb, Common Space, Common Humanity, Laura Goad, CDEC Director and Claire Griffel, Imagine Senegal