Remember what was happening just before the COVID-19 Pandemic changed our lives? Let me help you— we were in the midst of a raging debate over the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
Meanwhile, the Western world was busy with its condescending propaganda. The UK government was expressing concern about the “potential impact” of the CAA. It was also being rumoured by the Western media that India altered its citizenship and asylum laws on the basis of religion. The reality, however, was that the CAA fast-tracked citizenship to millions who had settled in the country following religious persecution in its neighbourhood.
However, the UK itself might have just started discriminating between different asylum-seekers on the basis of race and nationality.
Earlier this month, the UK government signed a deal with Rwanda, which has been described as racist, inhumane and imperialistic. The deal involves the British funding of 120 million pounds ($157 million) to the East African country. In return, the UK will be able to get rid of migrants and asylum-seekers who undertook a perilous journey through the English Channel, by sending them thousands of miles away to Rwanda.
The UK will be able to get rid of migrants and asylum-seekers who undertook a perilous journey through the English Channel, by sending them thousands of miles away to Rwanda.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “From today… anyone entering the U.K. illegally as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1 may now be relocated to Rwanda.” He added, “Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead.”
Boris Johnson’s government is all set to outsource its asylum operations and has also decided to convert a former hostel in Rwanda into a detention centre.
In order to sell the controversial deal, the British Prime Minister also said that the East African nation is “one of the safest countries in the world, globally recognized for its record of welcoming and integrating migrants.” What Mr Boris Johnson did not mention is that 12 refugees were shot dead by police in Western Rwanda in February 2018 and the East African country also has a sketchy human rights track record.
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The migrants and asylum-seekers will have to stay in Rwanda until they are granted asylum. Even when they are granted asylum, they will be encouraged to stay in Rwanda for at least another five years. This is in line with the Boris Johnson government’s apparent policy of limiting immigration into the UK.
There is no clarity on what happens to the asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected. The asylum-seekers, therefore, face uncertainty and the risk of being deported to the very countries that they had fled due to brutal armed conflicts and civil wars.
The deal also happens to be a flagrant violation of the Refugee Convention and the UN human rights conventions, which the UK has ratified. Sending asylum-seekers to another country strips them of their right to have their cases considered in the country where they seek refuge. And the practice of transferring them to another country thousands of miles away also reeks of 21st century imperialism.
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The UK has a brutal history of shuffling slaves and indentured labour across different parts of the world depending on its geopolitical and economic interests. Today, it seems to be shuffling African, South Asian and Middle Eastern refugees between the English Channel and Rwanda. In order to push through its neo-imperial plan, the UK government is also paying millions of pounds to the East African country.
However, the UK-Rwanda refugee deal is not unprecedented. Australia too has a policy of outsourcing its asylum functions and dispatching asylum-seekers to detention camps located in the Pacific island nation of Nauru. Under Boris Johnson’s leadership, the conservative government in the UK also prioritises reducing the number of incoming migrants and asylum-seekers.
However, it is the inherently discriminatory character of the UK’s asylum and migrant policy that stands out. The UK has made some extensive arrangements to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing the ongoing war in the European country, including the family visa scheme and the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme. Thousands of Ukrainians have already been granted visas by the United Kingdom.
The UK has made some extensive arrangements to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing the ongoing war in the European country, including the family visa scheme and the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme. Thousands of Ukrainians have already been granted visas by the United Kingdom.’
Ukrainian refugees entering British territory will not be made to travel to Rwanda by the UK government, nor will they be made to live in detention centres in a far-off country till their applications are processed. The UK doesn’t want to keep them away either. So, the Ukrainian refugees will not be encouraged to live in some other country for several years.
This is where the idea of sheer racism and religious profiling comes in. The UK is not discriminating between Ukrainian and other refugees due to national security risks or a valid point of distinction between the two kinds of migrants.
During the Russia-Ukraine war, racism was visible in Western media coverage. Even British media networks seemed to care about Ukrainian refugees because Ukrainians are blue-eyed, white Europeans. Apparently, this is what makes them different from other migrants who will be sent to Rwanda as a part of the asylum process and probably forms the very basis for London’s discriminatory treatment of the two different sets of refugees.
This brings us back to the main issue- British hypocrisy between its ‘concern’ over the CAA and the Rwanda deal. As it turns out, India never used religious division to amend its citizenship laws despite what the Western media had to say but it is the UK that is framing its asylum policies on patently racist grounds.
Akshay Narang is a columnist who writes about international affairs and developments in the defence sector. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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