by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 5, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1443)
Britain’s controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was stopped in its tracks by a last-minute ruling on June 14 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECrHR) in Strasbourg. A Boeing 767 aircraft chartered by the British government and ready to take off from the Ministry of Defence base in Boscombe Down, near Salisbury to take asylum seekers to Rwanda was grounded minutes before take-off.
The late evening ruling of the ECrHR in the case of a single individual identified only as KN, an Iraqi citizen, led to a flurry of other court challenges in the UK on behalf of seven other asylum seekers who were being deported to Rwanda against their will. The irony of UK’s deportation policy was not lost on observers. The leading proponent of this controversial policy is British Home Secretary Priti Patel, herself of Indian origins (her parents migrated from Uganda, fleeing Idi Amin’s regime in the 1960s), who said she was “disappointed” but added: “Preparation for the next flight begins now.”
She even railed against the ECrHR trying to conflate it, quite falsely, with the European Union (EU), as the Guardian newspaper pointed out. Ms. Patel described the court ruling as “scandalous” and “racist” and said “we should quit the ECrHR”, according to a report in the right-wing Daily Telegraph. The Guardian, however, had a different view of Britain’s policy on asylum seekers. Its editorial said: “There is a grotesque cynicism about a government asylum policy that is built to fail and provoke outrage,” describing it as “unjust”, and “un-British”.
Provoking outrage is part of a deliberate policy crafted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief strategist, Lynton Crosby. He “excels at using ‘wedge issues’ to gain political advantage,” according to Peter Oborne. “Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda fits the bill.” Crosby had used the same strategy two decades ago in Australia to deadly effect. He propelled John Howard to victory in July 2001 on the backs of “a cargo of 433 desperate Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers” by dispatching them “to detention camps on the tiny island state of Nauru.” Racism works.
Called the Rwanda asylum plan, the British government announced in April that some asylum seekers who cross the English Channel to UK would be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda to claim asylum there instead. The ostensible reason for the scheme, according to London, is to discourage others from crossing the Channel. Human rights campaigners and groups supporting asylum seekers have rejected such assertions by the British government.
James Wilson from campaign group Detention Action said the rare intervention from the ECtHR “shows how potentially dangerous” the Rwanda removals are. He said the court had recognised no one should be forced on to a plane until the policy was fully scrutinised in a High Court hearing, that would take place this month (July).
Under the plan, the Johnson regime announced a five-year £120 million ($150 million) trial in which some asylum seekers will get a one-way ticket to Rwanda. More than 160 charities and campaign groups opposed the plan and some launched a legal challenge. While the High Court in Britain ruled against them, the European Court of Human Rights blocked the deportation of one Iraqi asylum seeker (identified only as KN) ruling that he faced “a real risk of irreversible harm” if he remained on the flight.
The ECrHR’s ruling set off a fresh wave of legal challenges about other deportees, derailing the flight plan late at night on June 14. It would, however, be wrong to assume that the controversial plan is dead. The Johnson regime’s point person Patel seems determined to implement it disregarding the outcry from human rights organizations and the UN.
In the wake of the ECrHR ruling, judges in Britain will consider later this month whether the whole Rwanda policy is lawful. Crosby, Johnson’s evil chief strategist, however, sees the policy as a win-win regardless of the outcome. The ECrHR ruling is already being framed as ‘outside interference’ in Britain’s internal affairs. It is meant to rile up Britons and rally support for Johnson who has become quite unpopular because of rising costs and failing economic policy. Will the Johnson regime also denounce Human Rights Watch’s open letter to Ms. Patel urging her to rescind the deportation scheme?
Siobhan Mullally, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said in a statement on June 17 that the practices proposed by the UK “risk causing irreparable harm to people seeking international protection”.
“There are serious risks that the international law principle of non-refoulement will be breached by forcibly transferring asylum seekers to Rwanda,” said Ms. Mullally.
“People seeking international protection, fleeing conflict and persecution, have the right to seek and enjoy asylum – a fundamental tenet of international human rights and refugee law,” she said.
The day the specially chartered flight was to take asylum-seekers to Rwanda, Johnson told his cabinet that people undermining his regime’s Rwanda policy were “abetting the work of criminal gangs” and said the government would not be deterred from the policy. The UN Special Rapporteur, however, disagreed with such characterization. “Transferring asylum seekers to third countries does nothing to prevent or combat human trafficking; in fact, it is likely to push desperate people into riskier and more dangerous situations,” she said.
“Rather than reducing trafficking in persons, it is likely to increase risks of exploitation.”
Who are these people seeking asylum in Britain? Most of them are refugees from such war zones as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen etc. All of them are the victims of the west’s wars of aggression on their countries. Britain’s asylum deportation policy is also extremely racist. Refugees from Ukraine are not only being welcomed but also provided instant employment. Ukrainians are white while those being deported to Rwanda are non-white.
It cannot get more racist than that.