Rwanda says Sunak’s asylum plan could be ‘model for other countries’

JOHANNESBURG – The Rwandan government has suggested its deal with the UK to accommodate asylum seekers from Britain will only completely stop the boats if larger global economic reasons driving migration are addressed.

“Without addressing the global imbalance of economic opportunities, you’re never going to completely stop the boats,” said Yolande Makolo, a spokesperson for the government in Kigali.

However, she argued that although this element was often lost in the debate in the UK over the Rishi Sunak’s flagship policy and migration, the British Government did recognise it and was taking steps to address it.

“This is why they’re [the UK Government] investing in Rwanda’s economic and social development, and this could become a model for other countries seeking to prevent people from making dangerous journeys to Europe,” said Ms Makolo.

The Home Office said it could not comment “given we do not hold the pen on global inequality”, despite Rwanda’s assertion that the deal agreed by Home Secretary James Cleverly shows the UK Government recognises its importance in global migration.

A Home Office spokesperson added that “our priority is to stop the boats… we will do whatever it takes to end these perilous and fatal journeys”.

It is unclear how the investment in Rwanda’s development will stop people from the Middle East and other parts of the world from making dangerous journeys to get to the UK and Europe.

The UK Government’s two-pronged attack to deal with migration to the UK does not appear to address the global imbalance of economic opportunities.

The first element is the Safety in Rwanda Bill, to deport asylum seekers and migrants to the country and deter illegal immigration to the UK.

The second is the measures announced earlier this month by Mr Cleverly, including raising the salary threshold for migrant workers to £38,700, to reduce legal migration.

The Home Office claims the plan will deliver “the biggest ever reduction in net migration” and means 300,000 people who came to the UK last year will now not be able to do so.

Ms Makolo also insisted that “Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees” and asked critics of the plan, such as Labour MPs, what they were proposing to do instead.

“Anyone who attacks this plan needs to explain what policy they’re proposing that will both address the immediate crisis causing untold suffering and death to those making these dangerous journeys, while also addressing the underlying causes of the global migration crisis,” she said.

The Home Office agreed, adding that it is “encouraging people to seek safe and legal passage” as it looks to clamp down on criminal gangs that it claims are driving the small boats.

Although Rwanda is clear that it disagrees with the UK Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the original agreement, between former home secretary Suella Braverman and its foreign minister Vincent Biruta, Ms Makolo said her government had willingly made changes to the deal as it is committed to its partnership with the UK.

“We were prepared to take additional steps to re-emphasise, in a binding manner, already existing commitments that address concerns raised in the legal process about the protection of asylum seekers,” she said.