Where is Rwanda? What is its human rights record and why is the UK planning to send asylum seekers to Rwanda?

The UK government has announced plans to send some asylum seekers over 4,000 miles away to Rwanda.

Boris Johnston has announced new government plans to send some asylum seekers who illegally cross the English Channel over 4,000 miles to Rwanda for processing.

Under the trial scheme, some asylum seekers who make the perilous journey will be sent to Rwanda while their claims are investigated “offshore”.

Those whose claims are successful, will be encouraged to stay in Rwanda, rather than the UK.

The proposed plan has drawn criticism from refugee charities and political parties alike.

Here's everything you need to know about the planned trial scheme and where Rwanda is located.

Where is Rwanda?

Rwanda is a landlocked country located in the continent of Africa, bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Where is Rwanda? What is its human rights record and why is the UK planning to send asylum seekers to Rwanda?

In 1994, the Rwandan genocide claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 people and made headlines around the world.

The country has since recovered and rebuilt its economy, but has a poverty ratio of 56% of the population living on just $1.90 per day.

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Why is the UK planning to send asylum seekers to Rwanda?

The UK government is planning to send some asylum seekers who cross the English Channel to Rwanda for processing in a bid to curb people smuggling and discourage people from travelling to the UK via the English Channel.

Under the plan, asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via illegal crossings, will be sent 4,000 miles to Rwanda for processing.

Before Rwanda, other locations including Ascension Island, Albania and Gibraltar were proposed and rejected.

In a speech unveiling the plans, Mr Johnson said the scheme would be uncapped and apply to asylum seekers who arrived illegally since January 1, 2022.

Those whose claims are successful, will be settled in Rwanda, rather than the UK.

What is Rwanda's human rights record?

Rwanda's human rights record has been called into question.

In 2021, the UK government highlighted "continued restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom" in Rwanda at the United Nations and called for investigations into "allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture".

Speaking about Rwanda's rights record, advocacy group Detention Action said that those sent to Rwanda would, “likely face indefinite detention under a government notorious for violent persecution of dissent”.

They added, “The UK currently gives asylum to Rwandan refugees fleeing political persecution.”

What has been said about the planned scheme?

There have been many reactions to the planned scheme from both political parties and charities alike.

The Labour party said the scheme was, "unworkable, unethical and extortionate" and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, both said the announcement was to distract from partygate.

In the charity sector Enver Solomon, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council stated, “We are appalled by the government’s cruel and nasty decision to send those seeking sanctuary in our country to Rwanda."

Whilst Chief Executive of Refugee Action Tim Naor Hilton said that the UK should have learnt from “Australia’s horrific experiment” of sending refugees “thousands of miles away” to camps where they experienced “rampant abuse”. Referring to a similar scheme in Australia that saw asylum seekers relocated to Papua New Guinea.

However, in his speech outlining the plan on Thursday, April 14, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the scheme is needed to "save countless lives" from human trafficking.

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