‘History proves’ that Rwanda plan won’t work and UK must reconsider – UN chief
istory has proven that offshoring asylum seekers can lead to “deeply inhumane” treatment, the UN’s new human rights chief has warned.
UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk urged the government to rethink its controversial Rwanda scheme.
He said the British government should “absolutely” reconsider its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda after a High Court ruling on Monday deemed the controversial scheme lawful.
The decision shocked refugee and human rights organisations, who claimed the Rwanda scheme will not end small boat crossings and won’t keep refugees safe.
The government “cannot offshore… responsibilities to another state in the way that is envisaged”, Mr Türk told told the Guardian, two months after taking office.
Speaking from Geneva, Mr Türk said “certainly…it’s not common sense” and called for the government to tone down its rhetoric surrounding “illegal” migration.
He said he doubts “very much” the Rwanda plan would provide protection for asylum seekers while deterring those who do not need it.
Mr Türk pointed to human rights atrocities at Australia’s offshore processing centres on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. The centre at Manus Island was closed after Australia’s supreme court ruled it illegal.
“The way that asylum seekers were treated in Nauru and Manus was deeply, deeply inhumane,” Türk told the Guardian.
The Home Office rejects any comparison with Australia’s scheme.
A spokesperson said the partnership with Rwanda will provide asylum seekers “with support to build new lives there, while disrupting the business model of people smuggling gangs”.
“It was found to be lawful by the High Court on Monday and the Home Secretary is committed to making it work to help prevent dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys.
“Comparing this policy and the Australian model is fundamentally wrong and inaccurate; under our approach people sent to Rwanda are not detained but relocated, and are free to leave if they wish.”
Rwanda will process claims in accordance with national and international human rights law. Under the model, asylum seekers are not detained or placed in indefinite detention, and it is not the UK that would consider their claims.
The government has repeatedly claimed that Rwanda is a safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.
The first deportation flight – due to take off on June 14 – was grounded amid a series of challenges against individual removals and the policy as a whole.
It is expected Monday’s ruling will be challenged in the Court of Appeal, with a Supreme Court battle also possible, blocking flights until next year at the earliest.
On Wednesday Home Secretary Suella Braverman did not rule out using disused cruise ships to house asylum seekers, saying “everything is on the table”.