Opponents of the British government’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda are preparing for an appeals court on Monday amid political backlash following reports that Prince Charles has described This particular policy is “appalling”.
A coalition of groups including immigration advocates and staff unions will ask the Court of Appeal in London to overturn a lower court ruling allowing the first deportation flight to proceed. as scheduled for Tuesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government in April announced plans to send some undocumented migrants to Rwanda, where their asylum claims in the East African country would be processed. If successful, those migrants will stay in Rwanda. Britain has already paid Rwanda 120 million pounds ($158 million) in advance and will make additional payments based on the number of people deported.
The program aims to discourage migrants from risking their lives by crossing the English Channel in small boats after the number of such journeys spiked in the past two years. But human rights groups say the policy is illegal, inhumane and will only increase risks for migrants.
Debate flooded the British media over the weekend after the Times of London reported that an unidentified person had heard Prince Charles express opposition to the policy “several times” in the past. private conversation.
“He said he thought the whole government’s approach was appalling,” the newspaper quoted the source as saying.
Charles’s office, Clarence House, declined to comment on “anonymous private conversations”, but stressed that the prince remained “politically neutral.”
Charles’ comments are problematic as he is the heir to the throne and the British monarch is said to remain above political strife.
The conversations reportedly raised concerns about whether Charles could become a neutral monarch after speaking out for a lifetime on issues ranging from ocean plastic to architectural conservation. Charles, 73, has become increasingly central in recent months as health problems have limited the activities of Queen Elizabeth II, his 96-year-old mother.
The comments caused a storm in British newspapers, with the Daily Express warning the Prince of Wales: “Stay out of politics Charles!” The Mail on Sunday said: “We will not back down from Rwanda, Charles.”
Johnson’s government shows no sign of changing course.
Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis, who represents the government on British Sunday morning television programmes, gave a strong defense to the plan, saying the British government wanted to change the business model. of smugglers.
He told Sky News: “This is actually a policy it will take – to make sure that modern slavery and these smugglers know that their modes of crime are going to be broken.”
According to government statistics, more than 28,500 people entered the UK by small boat last year, up from 1,843 in 2019. The danger of such crossings became apparent on 24 November, when 27 people died after their inflatable boat sank in the waters between England and France.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees border enforcement, defended its policy on Sunday, posting comment from a Rwandan government spokesman on social media.
Rwanda spokesman Yolande Makolo said: “It is about protecting and securing the lives and development of both migrants and Rwandans in Rwanda.
A High Court judge in London on Friday denied a request by opponents of Britain’s plan to block refugee flights to Rwanda until a court decides whether the scheme is illegal. law or not. The decision allows flights to begin even as the broader legal challenge continues.
That ruling has been appealed to the Court of Appeal, which will hear the petition on Monday.
Government lawyer Mathew Gullick said Friday that 37 people were originally expected to board Tuesday’s flight, but six had their deportation orders cancelled. The government still intends to operate the flight, he said.
The government has not provided details on those selected for deportation, but refugee groups say they include people fleeing Syria and Afghanistan.
Rwanda is already home to tens of thousands of refugees. Competition for land and resources has contributed to ethnic and political tensions that culminated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutu tried to protect them. was killed.
President Paul Kagame’s government has made significant economic progress since the genocide, but critics say it has come at the expense of intense political repression.
The United Nations refugee agency has objected to Britain’s plan, saying it is an attempt to export the country’s legal obligations to provide asylum to people seeking refuge. safe.
“Those fleeing war, conflict and abuse deserve compassion and empathy,” said Gillian Triggs, assistant high commissioner for protection at UNHCR. “They should not be traded as commodities and shipped overseas for disposal.”