Government plans to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda condemned as 'performative cruelty'

Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images Credit: A young child amongst a group of people thought to be migrants after being brought in to Dungeness, Kent in March.

A charity worker has said the government's proposal to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda to be processed is "a piece of performative cruelty".

Bridget Chapman, from Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN), has urged the government to play its role as part of a "global community" and scrap the proposal.

It comes as the Prime Minister plans to send asylum seekers 4,000 miles away, as part of the government's new immigration plan to tackle the number of small boat crossings in the Channel.

Boris Johnson has now put the Navy in "operational command" of the English Channel.

An initial £120 million is expected to be given to the Rwandan government under a trial scheme, with Home Secretary Priti Patel striking a deal during a visit to the capital of Kigali.

She said the "vast majority" of those arriving in the UK "illegally" will be considered for relocation to Rwanda but declined to share specific details after it was reported the policy would only apply to male migrants.

  • WATCH: Bridget Chapman, from Kent Refugee Action Network, reacts to the government's proposal to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda

The Prime Minister conceded on Thursday (14 April) that he expects the plans to fly asylum seekers to the East African country to be challenged in the courts.

Bridget said: "Well this looks to us like another piece of performative cruelty by the government who pledged to give a warm welcome to people in conflict in Ukraine but seem to be turning a cold shoulder on people fleeing conflict and persecution in other places."

"We want the public to be very skeptical of this plan. We think it is going to cost a huge amount of money, will damage Britain's reputation and is actually unlikely that many people will actually ever get sent there."

"I think if we accept the UK is part of a global community and we have a part to play in accepting people that are in need of sanctuary, this isn't the answer.

"We are not going to stop people making the crossing in small boats, unless we give people genuinely accessible, safe and legal routes.

"The government talks a lot about how people should access the legal routes but we've seen with Ukraine that these legal routes are almost impossible to access and if you don't come from Ukraine it's even more difficult."

"So that's the way we need to deal with this - to give people better options."

"I think this idea that single men are particularly 'dangerous' is pernicious. Single men are victims of torture, single men are fleeing involuntary conscription, single men are fleeing war and persecution, you are not not a refugee because you are a single man, so you cannot put people into groups like that."

"I think the one thing we can all agree on is that nobody should be making a crossing across the busiest shipping lane in the world in a small boat. It is really dangerous and we have seen, with the large number of lives lost in the Channel in November last year, what the consequences of that can be."

"The best way to deal with it is to give people better options, so we would suggest humanitarian visas - this is a scheme that already exists - so that people can be given a ferry ticket.

"It would be much better for our border security, we would know exactly who was arriving, when they were arriving and it would be cheaper and morally, it's much better."

"We have to do our share and at the moment, we don't do anything like enough."

Asylum Welcome, an organisation based in Oxford, has released a statement reacting to the government's policy.

It said: "We stand in solidarity with all asylum seekers seeking refuge in the UK, regardless of their means of arrival. We are deeply concerned about these plans, and the risks they pose to the lives and safety of asylum seekers in search of refuge in the UK.

"We believe this proposal reflects the government’s wider agenda to undermine the UK’s asylum and refugee system. These plans, and the Nationality and Borders Bill which provides the legal framework for them, will elongate and obscure the process of claiming asylum in Britain."