That this Council notes: -
The Conservative Government is proposing to fly UK Asylum Seekers, who cross the English Channel in small boats, to Rwanda, 4,000 miles away at an estimated initial cost of £120 million. This practice of offshore processing UK Asylum Seekers, should their application be successful, would provide them with long-term accommodation in Rwanda.
Rwanda has been accused of human rights abuses on numerous occasions. In January 2021, the UN Human Rights Council was told by Julian Braithewaite, Director General for Europe at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, “We remain concerned... by continued restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom. We urge Rwanda to model Commonwealth values of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.” The UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, has since expressed regret that Rwanda has so far largely ignored this advice. In addition, the US Government, in its most recent assessment of Rwanda, stated they had extensive concerns about their human rights practices.
Rwanda had a similar agreement, to offshore Asylum Seekers, with Israel, between 2014 and 2017 that failed. Almost all the 4,000 Asylum Seekers quickly left, to once again, try to travel to Europe. This journey, fraught with danger, left many at the mercy of human traffickers; the very people that the Conservative Government is claiming they are trying to protect UK Asylum Seekers from.
There is further evidence of the failure of detaining Asylum Seekers at offshore locations. In 2013, Australia introduced a policy of transporting Asylum Seekers fleeing war zones to camps in Papua New Guinea and Naura. This process was widely condemned by refugee advocates, human rights groups, and the United Nations. The failure of these camps was marked by numerous major incidents of violence, riots, and even murder, and thirteen Asylum Seekers died. Australia ceased to transfer Asylum Seekers to Papua New Guinea as of the 31st December 2021.
The African Union has also objected to the transportation of Asylum Seekers from European Countries as “burden shifting.” As recently as August 2021, the African Union condemned “in the strongest terms possible” Denmark’s plans to send Asylum Seekers to Africa for processing.
Introducing offshore processing for UK Asylum Seekers, who only arrive by boat across the English Channel, is discriminatory practice. For those who arrive by other routes or other countries, such as people fleeing the war in Ukraine, the Conservative Government is not only allowing them to stay but encouraging the British public to house them. The UK has a proud tradition of providing protection for UK Asylum Seekers wherever they have fled from. Only offshoring those who arrive by boat crossing the English Channel, introduces fragility to this proud customary practice.
In summary, the practice of offshoring Asylum Seekers, has been shown on numerous occasions to fail. It is not wanted by the African Union, is discriminatory, incredibly expensive, and puts the very people that the Conservative Government is claiming to protect, at significant personal risk.
Therefore, this Council resolves to:
1. Call on the Government not to fly any UK Asylum Seekers to Rwanda.
2. Call on the Government to process all UK Asylum Seeker applications in the UK, through a system that enables right to stay decisions to be made quickly, whilst safeguarding their human rights.
3. Request that the Leader of the Council writes to the Government expressing this Council’s support for a national asylum dispersal system, ensuring that every part of the country plays its role, alongside Rotherham, in meeting the needs of those people fleeing persecution.
Mover:- Councillor Baker-Rogers Seconder:-Councillor Cusworth