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British minister in Rwanda steps up plan to deport migrants


LONDON — Britain’s Home Secretary arrived in Rwanda on Saturday for a visit aimed at bolstering the British government’s commitment to a controversial plan to deport some asylum seekers to the African country.

Ahead of her visit, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the migration policy “will act as a powerful deterrent against dangerous and illegal travel”.

Britain’s Conservative government wants to stop migrants reaching the UK on risky journeys across the Channel, and a deportation deal signed with Rwanda last year was among measures to deter arrivals. More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain by boat in 2022, up from 8,500 in 2020.

According to plans, some migrants who arrive in the UK in small boats would be flown to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. Those granted asylum would remain in the African country rather than return to Britain.

But the 140 million pound ($170 million) plan has been mired in legal challenges, and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda. The UK was forced to cancel the first deportation flight at the last minute in June after the European Court of Human Rights ruled the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm”.

Rights groups cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record and say it is inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) into a country where they don’t want to live.

Earlier this week, a group of asylum seekers from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria were allowed to appeal in court against the UK government’s decision to relocate them.

Defending the plan, Braverman said it will “help people rebuild their lives in a new country” and boost Rwanda’s economy through investments in jobs and skills.

She is expected to meet President Paul Kagame and his counterpart, Vincent Biruta, to discuss details of the deportation deal.

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of the nonprofit Freedom from Torture, described the policy as a “cash for humans” plan.

“Rather than pushing through this inhumane and unworkable policy, ministers should focus on establishing safe routes to the UK and tackling the unacceptable backlog of asylum claims, so that people fleeing war and persecution can rebuild their lives with dignity,” she said.

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