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Volunteers from Hastings Supports Refugees assist cross-Channel refugees landing on the Stade in late March. The government is proposing to send “illegal” migrants to Rwanda (photo: Cath Tajima-Powell).

Rwanda plan meets strong criticism in Hastings

The government’s plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda for processing  and settlement has provoked strong reactions, not only nationally but also in Hastings. Nick Terdre reports.

Announced last week by the Home Office, the plan calls for “migrants who make dangerous or illegal journeys, such as by small boat or hidden in lorries” to be sent to Rwanda to have their asylum claim processed – and if successful to be offered settlement in that country.

A partnership agreement has been signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel with the Rwandan government under which the UK will invest £120m to enable the necessary facilities to be set up in that country. While full details of how the scheme would operate and exactly who it would target have yet to be disclosed, the signs are that it is mainly single men arriving by what the Home Office persists in calling “illegal” means who will be subject to the scheme.

The Home Office also stressed that plan was aimed at disrupting the business model of people-smuggling gangs, though opportunities for people-smugglers have only opened up since the government closed regular routes for asylum-seekers to reach this country.

In a town and a region with strong ties to refugees – Hastings participates in the government’s Syrian refugee resettlement scheme and has begun to take Afghan refugees, as is the case with other East Sussex local authorities, and where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted large demonstrations of support for the attacked country, critics of the Rwanda plan have been vocal.

Alex Kempton, operations and campaigns manager of the Refugee Buddy Project, called the plan “utterly appalling.”

“Unbelievable”

“The idea that it is safe, legal, moral or cost-effective to offshore people seeking asylum is just unbelievable,” she said. “The people we support across East Sussex are not economic migrants, they are forced out of their homes, running from war and persecution. That the UK will be putting traumatised, terrified and vulnerable people on planes and flying them thousands of miles away rather than facing up to our humanitarian responsibility to offer them a home here is totally unacceptable…

“That it will only be males who will be sent to Rwanda speaks volumes about how safe the Government assesses the situation there to be, whilst raising significant concerns about the prospects for LGBT+ people seeking refuge being sent to a Country known for its discriminatory culture.”

Cllr Paul Barnett, Labour leader of Hastings Borough Council, told HOT, “Sending asylum seekers who arrive here to Rwanda is cruel, unfair and out of touch with public opinion. I am appalled at this latest ridiculous decision by our racist government.

“This is being trailed (given that Home Office officials are unhappy with the proposals) by the Prime Minister to distract from the loss of confidence in him after lying to us all about parties,and with it he offers another lie, telling us most asylum seekers are economic migrants. In fact the majority of those claiming asylum here are then granted asylum, as they are genuinely fleeing from war or terror.

“So it’s no different from supporting those fleeing Ukraine.”

Green Party councillor Julia Hilton said on Facebook,“Every week this government shows itself without compassion and now, to distract us from our fundamentally corrupt and dishonest and law-breaking ‘leaders’, it has sunk to new lows in announcing this disgusting and cruel policy to ship desperate people seeking sanctuary for ‘processing’ to Rwanda.

“They do not govern in my name.

“I hope our MP Sally Ann Hart will finally find the guts to speak out against this appalling proposal.”

“Inhumane”

The plan was also condemned by the local Liberal Democrats, who declared themselves in a lengthy statement sent to HOT “disgusted by this Government’s inhumane treatment of people whose right to seek sanctuary in this country had been accepted even by its own stringent rules.  It is not and never has been illegal to claim asylum.

“…It is unbelievable that the Home Secretary, herself an immigrant, could introduce the idea of offshoring asylum seekers (possibly women as well men) to have their legitimate claims determined in Rwanda without any substantive interview first!

Countering regular claims in the right-wing press about the refugee situation in the UK, the Lib Dems added that,“Our country is not overrun by asylum seekers. The relatively prosperous countries of Western Europe receive far more applications than we do, and it is common knowledge that the vast majority of refugees settle in neighbouring countries, hence Syrians stay in Jordan and Lebanon.

”As Liberal Democrats campaigning for justice, compassion, and efficiency in our asylum system we demand that this current agreement with Rwanda is abandoned, and future proposals removed from the Government’s legislative programme. “

Like-minded on immigration: Home Secretary Priti Patel and Hastings & Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart.

Local MP Sally-Ann Hart, who has given her full backing to the proposed Nationality and Borders bill with which the Rwanda scheme is closely aligned, has so far remained silent on the issue. While reporting on her Facebook page, on the day the plan was announced, her pleasure at visiting the Aspens’ Charities Roebuck Centre, she has made no mention of it, nor responded to HOT’s request for a comment.

Cllr Andy Patmore, leader of HBC’s Conservative group, told HOT he would not be commenting as he was a local councillor only concentrating on local issues on which the Borough Council could have a direct impact.

 

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Posted 13:11 Wednesday, Apr 20, 2022 In: Politics

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. I D Tomisson

    Oh dear! The bleeding heart brigade are out again! Must be election time? This policy will affect mainly single young men who have been shown to be the largest section of the illegal immigrants and mainly economic in nature. Processing them abroad will allow those genuine asylum seekers including single parents with their children to be processed much quicker and be provided with infinitely better support. If these young men are seeking a safer environment surely it should not matter to them where that environment is. Why must it specifically be the UK? I support the policy.

    Comment by I D Tomisson — Thursday, Apr 21, 2022 @ 10:10

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