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Britain defends Rwanda asylum plan as 'compassionate'
19/03/2023 17:06 in International News

On a visit to Rwanda on Saturday, Britain's interior minister defended a contentious plan to return asylum seekers arriving in the country to the country's detention centres.

"Several countries throughout the world are dealing with record numbers of illegal migrants," Suella Braverman explained.


The agreement reached between Britain and Rwanda "will pave the path for a solution that is both humanitarian and compassionate, as well as fair and balanced," she added.


Braverman was speaking following a visit to the Bwiza estate, where the resettled migrants centre is being erected, and pronounced herself "very impressed" with what she saw.


She talked to journalists during a news conference accompanied by Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, who also backed the two countries' accord.


"Not only will this assist dismantle criminal human-smuggling networks, but it will also save lives," he said.


The UK's conservative government has made illegal immigration a top priority, and it was a crucial promise made when the country exited the European Union.


It wants to make all unlawful immigrants' asylum requests illegal and send them to "safe" third countries like Rwanda in order to prevent thousands of migrants from crossing the Channel on small boats.

More over 45,000 migrants arrived on the shores of southeast England on small boats in 2022, representing a 60% annual increase on a risky route that has seen an increase in use every year since 2018.


Britain's government, which is lagging in polls, has been working for years to address border crossings.


It had anticipated that the fear of a one-way ticket to Rwanda, where migrants would stay if granted asylum, would dissuade cross-Channel travel.


But, that proposal, revealed last year by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was thwarted at the last minute by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is independent of the EU.


The government initiative is still entangled in challenges in London's High Court. There have been no deportation flights to Rwanda to date.


Rights groups accuse Rwanda, which has been held with an iron fist by President Paul Kagame since the end of the 1994 genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people, of suppressing free expression and opposition.


Thousands of people flocked to the streets of cities such as London, Glasgow, and Cardiff on Saturday to protest the idea.


Protesters in the British capital carried placards reading "no human being is illegal" and "Safe passage, not Rwanda".


The BBC and The Guardian newspaper, among others, were not invited to cover the interior minister's travel to Rwanda.



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