He explained the controversial asylum seekers bill in Britain

“Stop the boats” has become a rallying cry for Britain's immigration opponents.

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LONDON – Britain's Conservative majority in Parliament has passed a controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, capping a battle that critics have slammed as a costly, inhumane and impractical way to deal with migration.

British lawmakers gained support Monday night with a measure aimed at meeting one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's legislative priorities: “stopping the boats.” Specifically, small inflatable boats and even kayaks are filled with thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who cross the English Channel every year from France.

Opponents pointed out that the plan could cost an individual more than a three-year stay at the Ritz. It may conflict with international human rights law. Experts say this may not be an effective policy.

The measure had already won approval in the House of Commons last year, but was held up in the House of Lords, the unelected second chamber of the British Parliament, whose members are tasked with examining potential legislation. Members of the House of Lords and several opposition lawmakers expressed concern that the policy could expose migrants and asylum seekers to abuse, and also raised questions about its legality.

Labor MP Stephen Kinnock described the bill as “post-truth” because it describes Rwanda as a safe country for asylum seekers against the opinion of courts and humanitarian groups.

Political tensions over immigration, both illegal and authorized, extend to all parts of the world. Amid increasing numbers of border crossings from Mexico, the Biden administration has continued to build barriers on the US-Mexico border that have served as… Signature immigration policy For former President Donald Trump. For more than a decade, Australia has sent asylum seekers to small islands in the Pacific Ocean while their claims are processed. From France to Hungary, European countries have in recent years strengthened laws to allow their governments to detain and deport foreigners.

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Britain's plan? Migrants and asylum seekers are deported 4,000 miles away to Rwanda, in East Africa. Here's what Britain's policy is, how it works, what its costs are, and what supporters and critics say about it.

“Stop the boats”: What is the British asylum plan in Rwanda?

In 2018, just under 300 small boats carrying migrants and asylum seekers tried to reach Britain from France, according to Immigration control in the United Kingdoman independent research group.

By 2022, that number has reached nearly 46,000.

The United Nations, humanitarian groups and migration researchers say no single factor can explain the increase. Many are fleeing war or political and economic persecution. Some come because of family ties, cultural ties, because they speak English or because they consider Britain a safe and tolerant country compared to other destinations in Europe or elsewhere. Some studies It suggests that the rise reflects long-term global increases in the number of displaced people. Some experts, such as Hein de Haas, one of the world's leading migration researchers, claim that global migration levels have remained largely unchanged – at about 3% of the world's population – since World War II.

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“International migration is not as high as we think,” de Haas wrote in his book How Migration Really Works: A Factual Guide to the Most Controversial Issue in Politics, published in 2023.

Under the legislation passed on Monday night, for the next five years, any migrants and asylum seekers seeking to enter Britain will be processed in Rwanda, where they will be deported on designated government charter flights. If their applications are successful, they will be allowed to return to Britain. If not, they can apply for residency in Rwanda or a third country.

“It is very worrying”: Britain wants to send asylum seekers 4,000 miles to Rwanda

The British government hopes that the prospect of being sent to Rwanda will act as a deterrent to those seeking to enter Britain by sea. Crossings can be rough and dangerous. Drownings are not uncommon. They are also a constant source of political division and debate.

Like the United States, Britain is expected to hold elections this year Immigration is a fault line for votersSome commentators even pointed to the success or failure of the project Rwanda bill It could be crucial to the fortunes of Sunak and his Conservative Party in the next election.

“The passage of this historic legislation is not just a step forward, but a fundamental change in the global equation on immigration,” Sunak said in a statement after the bill was passed.

How much does an asylum plan in Rwanda cost?

The British government has already paid Rwanda about $300 million although the program has not yet begun. The cost of the project over the five years is expected to reach at least $670 million, according to British estimates National Audit Officethe government spending watchdog, although it may cost more.

It is not entirely clear how many potential asylum seekers Rwanda is willing to accept as part of the program. Rwanda was coy on this point. Although Sunak claimed the number was in the thousands.

However, Britain The spending watchdog expected The total cost to the British taxpayer of each deportation is approximately $2.5 million. This figure includes fees paid to the Rwandan government for agreeing to participate in the program, and expenses for flying and housing each deportee in Rwanda for approximately three years, which is the upper limit of the average length of time it takes to process an asylum application.

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The $2.5 million figure prompted Lord Carlisle of Berriot, a member of the British House of Lords, to scoff during a meeting Discussion of the Rwanda draft law He “hasn't looked at the Ritz Paris website for some time… but what I remember from looking at that website is that one could keep someone in that hotel for three years, and get some money back, at the price this operation paid,” the office says. National audit, is this a fair and compassionate system, and is it cost-effective?

What is the reason for the delay and what do critics say?

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson first announced the policy in 2022. But he then resigned due to a mass revolt from his party over his personal behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic when he attended parties and ignored lockdown guidelines issued by his government.

Johnson's departure was then followed by months of resignations of high-level ministers and legal challenges to the Rwanda Bill over a myriad of conflicting claims including that the policy was not strict enough; And it will ultimately not work in the long run; Or it illegally violates the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, partly because they will be deported to a country where rights groups and think tanks such as Freedom House They say political opposition is routinely suppressed through surveillance, intimidation, torture and suspected assassinations of opponents.

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“The British government refers to people arriving via this route (the English Channel) as illegal immigrants, but this in itself is controversial because the right to seek asylum is a human right,” said James Wilson, director of Detention Action. It is a British institution. The charity campaigns for better treatment of asylum seekers, she previously told USA TODAY.

“Every UK asylum claim must be heard fully and fairly in the UK.”

When Britain The Supreme Court appeared to agree with this assessmentAfter deciding that Rwanda was “not a safe country,” lawmakers were forced to make changes to the bill with additional safeguards for those sent there and guarantees that they would not be subjected to “refoulement”: sent back to countries from which they fled and may face ill-treatment.

Geoff Crisp is a migration researcher at the Refugee Studies Center at the University of Oxford He said The Rwanda deal is “a convenient way to divert attention from the fact that legal migration to Britain, much of it from non-EU countries and whose citizens are black or brown, has risen since Brexit” – Britain’s 2020 withdrawal from the EU, which Its supporters sought to reduce immigration.

But supporters of the plan insist it will make a tangible difference.

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“Parliament has the opportunity to pass a draft law that will save the lives of those exploited by human smuggling gangs.” Dave Paris, Sunak's spokesman He said last week. “It is clear that we cannot continue with the status quo… Now is the time for change.”

What then? What do Rwandans think about that?

However, even now that the bill has been approved by both houses of Parliament, it is not entirely clear when the first flights to Rwanda with migrants and asylum seekers will take off, although Sunak said on Monday in a press conference that it would be within “10- “12 weeks.”

In his statement after the bill was passed, Sunak said: “Our focus now is on getting flights off the ground, and I am clear that nothing will stand in our way of doing that and saving lives.”

However, before a bill can become official law, it must receive “royal assent”, a process, mostly a formality, in which the British monarch, King Charles III approves the new legislation.

A memo leaked to the British press He claimed that the government is in similar discussions on an asylum processing program with countries including Botswana, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire and Armenia. It is unclear whether this represents a potential backup plan for Rwanda, or an expansion of it.

At least one British humanitarian group that works with migrants and asylum seekers, and was instrumental in getting the program blocked last year through the courts, said it was exploring options to address new legal challenges. “No one will go to Rwanda” Care4Calais website says.

In Rwanda, Victoire Ingabire Umuhosa, an opposition politician, said the British asylum bill does not suit poor countries like hers, where the government struggles to meet the basic needs of most people. She added that Rwanda already has an influx of refugees from neighboring countries such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it does not provide them with adequate care.

Umuhoza said the recent announcement by Rwanda Air, Rwanda's national airline, to refuse to participate in the program by flying asylum seekers from Britain because it might tarnish Rwanda's image abroad is an indication of how many people there feel about the idea.

She said migrants and asylum seekers sent to Rwanda under the British plan would eventually notice that Rwanda could not provide them with any of the opportunities they were seeking.

“They will leave, as was the case with the migrants who were sent to Rwanda from Israel,” she said, referring to a program that ran from 2013 to 2018 and saw about 4,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers He was transferred from Israel to Rwanda. Many of them were quickly deported to neighboring Uganda.

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