Boris Johnson appears to be sticking to the “logic” of whatever it takes against immigration

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Several NGOs and the United Nations have denounced the UK’s agreement on Thursday to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, which they accuse of its cruelty and illegality. France 24 assesses François Jimin, researcher specializing in migration flows at Sciences Po.

France 24: What do we know about the agreement between the UK and Rwanda on the resettlement of asylum seekers ?

Francois Jimin: According to the agreement reached, all people crossing the border illegally from the UK, about 28,000 people a year, will be sent to Rwanda, where their asylum claims will be processed from the ground up by Rwandan officers. In return, the UK will pay Rwanda a whopping £120 million (about €144 million) annually.

This is a complete novelty: the example of Australia is often taken, which transfers its asylum procedure to neighboring island states, such as Nauru, but the agreement concluded by the United Kingdom goes much further.

On Nauru, Australian officers deal with asylum seekers and refugees and then have the right to travel to Australia. As part of the deal between the UK and Rwanda, asylum is completely outsourced: if granted, the refugees would not be able to go to the UK and would have to settle in Rwanda.

However, the terms of application remain somewhat ambiguous: we do not know how asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda or how they will be treated there after their arrival. Will they be placed in detention centers, will there be an appeal procedure, will they be able to benefit from an interpreter? Rwanda is not a model in terms of respect for human rights.

Several NGOs have decried the illegal and cruel nature of the agreement. Does it contradict international law? ?

The agreement conflicts with the right to asylum and the Geneva Convention, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory. It’s about people “irregularly crossing the border”. However, the Geneva Convention states very clearly that people who cross borders to seek asylum are never considered illegal, even if they use smugglers.

When fleeing a life-threatening danger in one’s own country, it is not always possible to apply for a visa: one must be able to travel quickly to another country to apply for asylum there, regardless of the means. Imagine: This means that Ukrainians fleeing the war could end up in Rwanda.

In fact, the UK decided not to grant asylum anymore because only people who entered the country legally, a small minority, would be able to apply for it and live there as refugees. For the UK, this amounts to a de facto departure from the Geneva Convention.

Can we expect this agreement to be effective and reduce the number of asylum applications ? Is this a realistic scale? ?

It will be difficult to implement the agreement; Its cost would be great for the British. In addition to the £120m-a-year package, the UK will have to move asylum seekers to Rwanda. When we know that forced eviction costs an average of 14,000 euros per person in France, we can imagine the amounts that could represent.

However, the agreement will have a deterrent effect on asylum seekers, although this depends on how it is implemented in practice. Will the boats be inspected systematically or just a few, for example?

However, Boris Johnson appears to adhere to the “whatever it takes” logic on the subject, which has a strong political interest for him. As he struggles to keep his job after the Lockdown parties scandal, the deal allows him to show voters that the government will stop at nothing to protect Britain’s borders, which has been one of the shocking arguments for Brexit.

The fact that the £120m package could also prompt the British government to try to “make it profitable” by deporting as many asylum seekers as possible.

If it succeeds, he fears that other countries will be inclined to interfere in this violation. Denmark has been discussing a similar project with Rwanda in recent months, and the UK’s success could prompt it to restart negotiations. Hungary might also be interested.

And if the agreement actually enters into force, we can expect consequences for France, because asylum seekers who refuse to cross the Canal will submit their applications there.

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