THE UK Government is pushing ahead with plans to deport some asylum seekers it deems to have arrived in the UK illegally to Rwanda.

Here Bethan Richards, of the Welsh Refugee Council, sets out some of the questions over asylum and the issues impacting those arriving in the UK in search of a better life.

Asylum seekers deserve better than a shrug off responsibility from the UK Government!  

The Rwanda  plan effectively outsources the UK’s responsibility to those seeking asylum. Sadly, over the last decade, we have seen increasing restrictions on welfare and the criminalisation of asylum seekers in government policy, with this being the most recent measure to be unveiled. 

Safe routes to the UK?  

The UK government has rightfully condemned people-smuggling industries for facilitating dangerous routes of migration that have led to loss of life, but this rhetoric (used time and time again) masks the deep-rooted issue of the government’s broken immigration policy!  

Let’s get to the facts…. Trafficking exists because people are left without a safe alternative.

There are very few safe routes for asylum seekers to come to the UK. If the UK Government was serious about stopping exploitative smugglers, they would expand safe routes to the UK. 

READ MORE: Numbers deported to Rwanda more likely to be 'hundreds' than 'tens of thousands'

It's something, we and the sector have been calling for- a commitment to resettle 10,000 people through formal resettlement routes each year. This would enable the most vulnerable to reach safety. Instead, our UK Government is ignoring this ask - causing people to take irregular routes.  

Is Rwandan plan inspired by the Australian system?

Priti Patel claims the Rwanda decision is “not comparable” with Nauru, which is Australia’s offshore processing centre.

However, the features and reasoning behind the UK’s proposal reflects those adopted in Australia.

They too implemented their offshore policy with the stated aim of stopping the arrival of asylum seekers by boat. A military force was created to carry out this task – to swiftly intercept asylum seekers and transfer them to Australian-run Offshore Processing Centres. Let us be clear, asylum seekers are not a military threat!  

In 2016, more than 2,000 leaked incident reports revealed assaults, sexual abuse, suicide attempts and a high number of child abuse incidents on the Naur site.

Human beings should not have to endure these centres of enforced isolation from society.

As other governments begin to jump on the UK’s proposal, to shake their responsibility towards those seeking sanctuary, civil society must look at the facts: such border policies completely fail to protect the rights of those seeking international protection. 

The National Wales:

What is life like for an asylum seeker in the UK? 

UK immigration policy has been persistently concerned with security and regulation, with immigration being presented as a burden on society, rather than an advantage.  

However, did you know that asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their claim is being considered? 

They must live on a mere £40 allowance each week. This does not disrupt the economy, nor is it a burden. Anyone who has lived on £40 a week will know, this is no life of luxury!   

When we hear from political spokespersons that there is a ‘refugee crisis’ in the UK, we once again need to turn to the facts.

READ MORE: How Jose Cifuentes escaped fascism in Chile to find sanctuary in Wales

Yes, there is a refugee crisis, in that many people are having to flee their homes in search of safety (due to war and political conflict), but the crisis is not that we have an uncontrollable influx of people attempting to enter the UK.

We have taken in 0.2 per cent of the global number of refugees seeking safety, the crisis we are facing today is one of endemic racism permeating our domestic policy.   

The UK Hostile Environment 

The 1951 Refugee Convention states that every person has a right to claim asylum by the means available to them, yet there are very few legal routes into the UK to claim asylum. The UK Government has created a hostile environment.  

How can people claim asylum in the UK if there are little-to-no safe routes to do so?

Successive governments have been quick to act as though the act of crossing the channel is “illegal”, rather than clarifying that many have no other option!

The tragic loss of life at sea could be stopped if the UK Government develop a human focussed approach to asylum, rather than a security focussed approach.  

Many people coming to the UK are searching for safety or a better life than the one they left behind.

READ MORE: Watch: Schoolchildren welcome Ukrainian refugee family to their new Welsh home

A decision made to cross the sea, or make a perilous journey across land, is not one made lightly.

A human being is complex, we are not a single identity, we do not fit a simple narrative. A migrant, a refugee, an asylum seeker, these are all terms placed over a person, which does not adequately fit their personhood.

We all deserve to be respected for our experiences, and our lives as a whole.  

Welsh Refugee Council  

We at The Welsh Refugee Council aim to help those who have journeyed to the UK, through support and expert advice Our approach is non-judgemental, and one founded in respect and belief.  

We provide services like: housing support, help setting up a UK bank account, help getting a National Insurance number, help finding a GP surgery and English classes.  

If you would like to donate to us, and support our work you can do so by following this link to our website.

You can write to your MP TODAY to oppose the UK Government’s Rwanda plans - follow this link from Asylum Welcome.

Bethan Richards is a Welsh Refugee Council trustee

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