UK standing imperiled if Rwanda deportation scheme is applied
There is fear that other conservative European governments would follow Britain’s lead and consider African states to deport asylum seekers.
The new head of Human Rights Watch, Tirana Hassan, said the UK's plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda would "completely erode" Britain's standing on the world stage.
Tirana Hassan also said that other conservative European governments were also considering African states to dump asylum seekers, which furthermore harms refugee protection.
“Everyone should care about this. This isn’t just about what’s happening in the UK,” Hassan told The Guardian.
Rwanda approved the UK's deportation scheme almost a year ago but legal challenges have arisen ever since, including interventions from the European Court of Human Rights.
Read more: UK uses Rwanda deportation card as threat against asylum seekers
Home Secretary of the European Court of Human Rights Suella Braverman visited Kigali earlier this month and found accommodation blocks being built for deported asylum seekers from Britain, which created extra controversy.
'Stop the boats'
A new restrictive bill under the slogan "stop the boats" was proposed by the government, which aims to cut down refugee crossing.
“It’s cheap politics, divisive, and completely contrary to human rights,” Hassan said. “I think that this current government in the UK is essentially scraping the bottom of the barrel.”
“This is just going to completely erode any sort of international standing that the UK has when it comes to human rights on the international stage. They don’t have a leg to stand on in terms of their credibility anymore,” Hassan said.
A significant setback for human rights worldwide would take place if the government deports asylum seekers to Rwanda this summer, said Hassan.
Read more: Army bases, disused ferries possible fate of asylum seekers in UK
“What’s going to happen if the UK gets away with the Rwanda deal and that goes forward, is that other countries will follow,” she said. “We’ve already heard whispers of this – people who are going to conservative governments like Hungary, like Poland, like Italy, saying this is a model that can’t be replicated … It’s a very slippery slope.”
“It’s always coined as the rise of autocracy against democracy,” she said. “But it doesn’t always have to be about the rise of autocracy. It can actually just be a couple of pages out of the autocrat’s handbook that gets passed around.”
The model of intercepting refugee boats and deporting asylum seekers to offshore camps was pioneered by Australia, and the country’s former Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has advised UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on immigration policy.
Hassan pointed out that Australia was not really expected to stand up on human rights issues as its "domestic record was so poor."
Hassan's predecessor Kenneth Roth made news in January after he was refused a Harvard fellowship due to his past criticisms of "Israel's" human rights record.
The incumbent HRW head insisted that the incident would not influence HRW in any way and in its approach to monitoring human rights in Palestine and "Israel".
“We consistently report on the abuses that come up. We don’t take sides,” she claimed. “Our job is to establish an independent narrative, to assess it against international law, and make recommendations to governments to do something about it. We do that on Israel-Palestine the same way we do any other country in the world.”
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