Speed Reads

'people as pawns'

Human rights groups criticize U.K. plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

The United Kingdom announced Thursday that it plans to send some asylum seekers thousands of miles away to Rwanda, a move human rights organizations say violates international agreements on refugees.

Under the plan, migrants would have the option of staying in Rwanda, going back home, or seeking resettlement in a country other than Britain, The New York Times reports. Britain will give Rwanda 120 million pounds (roughly $157 million) to cover schooling, vocational and skills training, and language lessons.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government has a hardline immigration stance, and Parliament is now considering a law that would criminalize entering the U.K. without a valid visa. Johnson said on Thursday that it's impossible to "sustain a parallel illegal system. Our compassion may be infinite, but our capacity to help people is not." Johnson did not say if this plan would apply to every asylum seeker or some.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, called this a "desperate announcement by a prime minister who just wants to distract from his lawbreaking," referring to Johnson being fined for breaking lockdown rules. Tim Farron, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, tweeted that the plan was crafted "to use innocent, desperate people as pawns" and "score culture war points."

Andy Hewett, head of advocacy for the British aid organization Refugee Council, told the Times that more details need to be revealed about the plan to determine its legality, but the proposal sounds like it could set a "dangerous precedent" and is at odds with Britain's commitment to the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees. "The principle of the convention is that people have a right to claim asylum in any country, that country should examine their asylum claim — and this completely undermines that principle," Hewett said.