Our nation should hang its head in shame over Rwanda refugee plans

I cannot believe the depths to which our nation has sunk. We have a government led by a liar and by ministers and civil servants being handed out fines for breaking their own laws. We have a government that slaps tax increases on struggling people and refuses to raise benefits to the level people need to survive. Food banks, once few and far between, and now ubiquitous and essential for good health and survival of many families. And we have a government that is planning to fly migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.

It is almost impossible to see any humanitarianism in this government’s attitude towards refugees crossing the channel to a country they dream of as a safe haven. Instead of tackling the people smugglers who have been responsible for hundreds of deaths in the same way we tackle terrorists, our government is taking aim at vulnerable people desperate for new lives.

Priti Patel is in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, today to sign the “migration and economic development partnership” this morning. This is low moment for our country that I have always believed had humanity in its national heart.

It is astonishing that this inhumane policy is supported by politicians whose family roots lie outside Britain, Johnson, Sunak and Patel among them. They are as British as all of us but we might have expected that they would have empathy with the plight of migrants.

The announcement, which Boris Johnson will see as a triumph to boost his flagging reputation, has yet to be made. That means that we have yet to see the details but media reports suggest that only men will be sent to Rwanda because they are more likely to be economic migrants. If they are accepted for asylum they will be settled there. Even if they come from Afghanistan or Syria.

A man, woman and child arrive after the perilous journey across the channel in a dinghy. Does the man get sent to Rwanda and his family remain?

Not everyone in this country is friendly to migrants, especially backbench Tory MPs. But no one can fail to notice that the government is welcoming Ukraine refugees – once they get through the red tape – who are mostly white. The government is proposing to export people who are largely non-white. To use a phase that is vogue at the moment – that’s bad optics.

I question whether the government will survive this. It is certainly on a fast track to get a hounding at the May local elections. But it cares more about pleasing the populist right than protecting the vulnerable.


* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk.

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  • nigel hunter 14th Apr '22 - 11:11am

    The traffickers will not care a fig. Their interest is making money.They will lie to the refugees on the situation and the boats will keep on coming .Rwanda ,human rights.suspect. rWe send the people over their,cheap labour for the Govnt will not want them back.It is a sop to the Backbenchers.
    Interesting that it comes weeks before an election .Interesting that it comes with all the problems the country is facing,a deflection tactic.
    This govnts actions on housing ,lack of, exacerbates the problem for there is not enough of it.Prefabs ,factory built can be such a boon to house people.The refugees and UK nationals would have a house to live in.Work could be provided for there are many vacancies.THAT leads to grateful people and better ‘vibes’ abroad.
    The Conservatives (ukipervatives!?) play to the worst of the UK to maintain their flagging support.They are not interested in people and what they can offer.Only the power to stay a valid political party and maintain power
    A more humanitarian attitude would bring rewards,most people in the UK care for others (one way or another) our values should not be dismissed by cheap political ploys.

  • Everyone knows it will not stop the traffickers or those wanting to come. The Royal Navy in charge, well you can appoint a Commander perhaps to head the whole thing but still use the current resources.
    How many will actually go to Rwanda, how many Court Cases will there be to prevent it, probably all window dressing but everything will gradually drift (sorry about the pun) away over the coming months.
    I know from work of boat people and others off lorries, some only early teens, who have been placed with Foster families by Social Services, attended school and now one at University. Probably be a Tory MP in the future! !!!!!
    No need to get excited, the public are not daft, and the prospect of a £10,000 fine for the PM, well………..

  • Graham Jeffs 14th Apr '22 - 11:49am

    On the subject of available accommodation, may I suggest that one of our MPs asks a question along the lines of:

    “How much accommodation in terms of bedroom capacity does the MOD have available that has been unused for over six months”?

    The truthful answer should indicate a surprisingly material resource that is being allowed to rot. The ones I know about are all in the south of England.

  • Suzanne Fletcher 14th Apr '22 - 2:11pm

    V quick before going out.
    those crossing the channel are NOT ILLEGAL, they are legally claiming asylum, and have the right to do so.
    As Lib Dems we support Safe Routes for Refugees so they do not need to make dangerous journeys.
    As Lib Dems we have strong policies on how decision making on asylum claims can be made, with radical reforms of Home Office.
    As Lib Dems treating people with dignity, compassion and humanity are at our core.

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Apr '22 - 3:10pm

    I’m not hanging my head in shame. I didn’t vote for this appalling government, and take no responsibility for its absurd and illegal policies.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Apr '22 - 3:21pm

    Andy in full flight, appreciate it.

    Agree though, with Jenny, we , all here, did not vote for this shambolic govt!

  • Ironic that Priti Patel is the child of immigrants. Don’t worry. They were on the lifeboat. I can’t despise her enough.

  • Katharine Pindar 14th Apr '22 - 9:13pm

    Thank you for this article, Andy, and the strength of your feeling, which I share. Good to see the comment by one of our MPs and a tweet from central LDs as well. This is the most illiberal policy yet devised by this wretched government, indeed inhumane, yet also absurd, costly and probably ultimately unworkable. Why do we not ask the French government to allow us to have an office or office in France to process asylum applications? Why are there not more approved routes for refugees to seek out? Why do we not say that, ultimately, GB is taking very few refugees compared with those taken by EU countries, that most of those arriving by unorthodox means do ultimately succeed in gaining asylum, and that moreover a lot of our industries can actually do with more workers, and should welcome young and fit people? And where is the sense of true British values, of tolerance, live-and-let-live and kindness, in such a policy as this?

  • David Goble 15th Apr '22 - 9:02am

    Priti Patel; Nadhim Zahawi; Sajid Javid; Kwasi Kwarteng; Rishi Sunak. These are not English names and one must pre-suppose that their origins lie outside the shores of this Sceptered Isle. However, they have come to this country, have been accepted and now, unfortunately, occupy the highest offices in the land.

    They are now using those offices to deny others the same rights that were extended to them. Despicable is too polite a term for them.

    Our Turkish-American Prime Minister is in a fix, so throw in a populist policy announcement just before the local elections and, hey presto, problem solved!

    Me, cynical? Never!

    As others have said, why do we not open an asylum-processing facility in France so that there are more legal routes for those who wish to come here. Sorry, silly me! That would involve us speaking to and cooperating with Europeans and we don’t do that! We’re Global Britain!!

  • Merlene Emerson 15th Apr '22 - 12:46pm

    Suzanne, has there been any update to LibDem policy in this area since 2019?
    I know there is often conflation of immigration with asylum. Also when we were in the EU, the EU laws and protocols applied. Now anything goes!

  • Peter Hirst 15th Apr '22 - 6:23pm

    It is unimagineable that we would transport people who arrive on our shores to Rwanda by plane in order to avoid dealing with them here. It defies any semblance of humanitarian action and is being done solely to appease this government’s right wing supporters. When scandals occur we will have an about face after hundreds have suffered at a time when we should be leading by example in treating with compassion those forced to flee abroad.

  • @Janet King, I wonder if you have forgotten the ‘enemies of the people’ headlines. Brexit voters loved it, and Johnson’s preemptive attack on lefty lawyers made it clear he’s hoping for another boost to his popularity when the Daily Mail gets stuck into them. Having decency, natural justice, and the actual law of the land on our side may count for nothing. Indeed, it could be very useful to the Conservative Party to have another way to empower their iconoclastic voters, by letting them relive their “success” in EU Referendum.

  • Neil James Sandison 18th Apr '22 - 12:50pm

    deportation to third country smacks of the penal sentences of some centuries ago for those the state was unwilling to take responsibility for . Its a form of slavery to sell unwanted persons to a third country on the basis they should not return to this country it is very likely the Rwandans will treat these unwanted and displaced people as cheap labour paid below a minimum wage . lets not embark on a new form of modern slavery .

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