UK refugees minister dismisses Boris Johnson's plan to process asylum seekers in Rwanda

UK refugees minister dismisses Boris Johnson's plan to process asylum seekers in Rwanda
The UK's refugees minister dismissed reports on British radio that Boris Johnson is planning to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing in offshore centres.
2 min read
07 April, 2022
The UK's refugees minister called Britain's response to the influx of migrants from Ukraine 'embarrassing' [source: Getty]

The UK’s refugees minister has dismissed reports that the British government is planning to send asylum seekers to offshore processing centres in Rwanda. 

Richard Harrington, appointed last month to manage Britain's intake of Ukrainian refugees, told LBC radio on Tuesday that he wasn’t aware of any plans to open migration centres in the African nation. 

“If it’s happening in the Home Office on the same corridor that I'm in, they haven’t told me about it,” said Harrington on British radio. 

“I’m having difficulty enough getting them from Ukraine to our country, there’s no possibility of sending them to Rwanda,” the minister added. 

Multiple UK media outlets, including The Times and SkyNews, reported this week that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce plans to “outsource” asylum seekers in an Australian-style shake-up. 

The UK Home Office did not confirm or deny whether such plans were in motion when contacted by The New Arab. 

The Times reported on Tuesday that Johnson “wanted to go ahead” with announcing the offshore processing plans, "but it’s just not ready...It’s close but there are still a lot of things in the balance”.

The UK government’s Nationality and Borders Bill has been been touted as a way to “make it easier to remove someone with a pending asylum claim to a safe third country”. However, the legislation - dubbed the “anti-refugee bill” - suffered several defeats in the House of Lords this week and is currently stalled in the House of Commons. 

The proposed offshore centres have been fiercely criticised across British political parties and among refugee advocates. 

Conservative politician and former chief whip Andrew Mitchell called offshore centres “a moral, financial and practical failure” in an email circulated among Tory rebels, according to the Guardian. 

UK charity Refugee Council said: "The New Plan for Immigration will mean people in need of kindness and compassion, will instead be sent to offshore processing centres at great risk to their wellbeing."

When contacted by The New Arab, a Home Office spokesperson sent this statement: "As set out in our New Plan for Immigration we are committed to working closely with a range of international partners as we continue to fix our broken asylum system.

“Through the Nationality and Borders Bill we will fix this broken system, helping those in genuine need while tackling people-smuggling gangs."