14 April 2022 | NEWS

The Government has unveiled plans to resolve the migrant crisis occurring in the English Channel, involving sending migrants to Rwanda, where they may choose to claim asylum, but not in Britain if they originally entered illegally. It will apply to those deemed to have entered illegally since 1 January this year, and will initially focus on single men.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan to send migrants who had crossed the Channel from other European nations to the African country of Rwanda in a speech today in Kent. The county has borne the brunt of the illegal Channel crossings, with thousands of migrants arriving on its shores.

Rwanda is a country that became infamous in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, which saw the deaths of almost a million members of the Tutsi people in three months. According to the Rwandan Government, migrants would be “entitled to full protection under Rwandan law, equal access to employment, and enrolment in healthcare and social care services” as part of the agreement.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel visited Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, to sign off on the deal. The scheme is Ms Patel’s second attempt to try a stem the flow of boats across the Channel, following the introduction of the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Bill has yet to pass through Parliament following defeats in the House of Lords.

Last year, there were 28,526 people who were known to have crossed the Channel, although many will not have been picked up by authorities. This figure is up from almost eight and a half thousand people who arrived in the year preceding. The crossings made the headlines last November, when twenty-seven migrants crossing the Channel died after their vessel capsized.

The facilitation of the migrant crossings is conducted by criminal gangs, who exploit the migrants in return for passage to the UK. The Prime Minister hopes that the prevention of migrant crossings will stop smugglers from turning the Channel into a “watery graveyard”.

The scheme, which is said to have been in development for the past nine months, will focus its efforts on transporting single men to Rwanda, with women, children and men with families being given greater reprieve. The relocation of migrants to Rwanda is estimated to cost taxpayers around £120 million, with migrants being housed in Government-leased hotels.

The Prime Minister stated in his address today:  “Our compassion may be infinite, but our capacity to help people is not. We can’t ask the British taxpayer to write a blank cheque to cover the costs of anyone who might want to come and live here.

“Uncontrolled immigration creates unmanageable demands on our NHS and on our welfare state, it overstretches our local schools, our housing and public transport and creates unsustainable pressure to build on precious green spaces.

“Nor is it fair on those who are seeking to come here legally if others can bypass the system. It’s a striking fact that around seven out of 10 of those arriving in small boats last year were men under 40, paying people smugglers to queue-jump and taking up our capacity to help genuine women and child refugees.”

Saying that the plan would “break the business model” of the criminal gangs organising the crossings, he added: “It’s this rank unfairness of a system that can be exploited by gangs which risks eroding public support for the whole concept of asylum.”

Former Brexit Party leader turned GB News host Nigel Farage attacked the plans, saying that they were “not much more than a short-term solution”. He further tweeted his desire for the issue to be solved by highlighting the issues faced at the border.

The Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, called the plans “unworkable” and “unethical”, arguing that they were a distraction from the Prime Minister’s ongoing Partygate scandal.

Jonathan is a political reporter and commentator. His interests include philosophy and sociology.

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