Europe and refugees

Image: David Peinado


The UK law allowing the deportation of refugees and migrants considered illegal to Rwanda comes in the wake of other debatable and controversial initiatives in Europe on the same issue


Last week the UK Parliament approved, after a long battle, the law that allows the deportation of refugees and migrants considered illegal to Rwanda, in Central Africa, a former German and Belgian colony.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, from the Conservative Party, committed himself to approving the law, which had been held up for months by an impasse between the Lower House, or Commons, and the Upper House, or Lords, and also between the government and opposition parties, in addition to being the target of constant criticism from human rights NGOs.

The Minister of the Interior (Home Secretary), James Cleverly, hailed the passage of the law as “a milestone in the effort to stop the influx of boats” attempting to bring refugees from the continent to the United Kingdom via the English Channel, and also as an “assertion of British sovereignty” against “blockades imposed by European courts”.

Denise Delic, from the United Kingdom section of the International Refugee Aid Committee, considered the measure “ineffective, unnecessarily cruel and too expensive”. She argued that it would be better to improve the protection network for refugees and their families, by establishing, for example, legal and safe routes.

There is already a list of 350 possible deportees and the first flight to Rwanda is scheduled for July. Each candidate to be deported will receive a letter informing them of this condition, and a series of appeal possibilities must be followed until a final decision is reached by a court.

There are estimates that with all the legal procedures and compensation due to Rwanda, each deportee will cost around 180 thousand pounds sterling to the British coffers, the equivalent of almost 1 million and 200 thousand reais.

Critics of the measure remember that in the 90s of the last century Rwanda was the scene of a bloody civil war and genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group, with an estimated death toll of up to 800 and up to 500 women raped. The current government of Rwanda requests, as a condition for accepting refugees, that the United Kingdom deport there five people accused of participating in this genocide.


The London government's measure comes in the wake of a series of debatable and controversial initiatives in Europe on the issue of refugees and immigrants. Last year, the European Commission and the Italian government tried to negotiate with Tunisia an effort on the part of its government to contain the waves of refugees passing through its territory in search of boats in the Mediterranean that would take them to the European continent, in exchange for financial aid to balance the country's accounts. The initiative did not prosper, but it was enough to raise a series of criticisms from human rights defenders.

At the beginning of April this year, the European Parliament narrowly approved a so-called New Pact on Migration and Asylum involving European Union countries.

The resolution comprises a set of five laws aimed at streamlining and standardizing procedures for granting or rejecting asylum, in addition to providing for a systematic relocation of those accepted among the countries of the Union, with the aim of alleviating the burden concentrated in countries in the south of the continent. It also opens the initiative to negotiate containment measures with African countries that are on the migrants' route, such as Tunisia again, and Mauritania, Morocco and Egypt. Once again, NGOs and this time Amnesty International criticize the measure, saying that it will restrict rather than protect the rights of people in vulnerable situations.

The controversy will continue. In 2023, Europe received 1,14 million applications asking for asylum. Furthermore, it detected 380 migrants in conditions considered “irregular”. Of these, 105 were ordered deported, and only 28 were actually deported.

In the United Kingdom, there are those who predict that the new deportation law approved will result in a real flight of candidates for their application into hiding, avoiding the receipt of summons. Over the weekend, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, celebrating, that many immigrants are leaving the United Kingdom for Ireland, fearing deportation.

On the other hand, this situation, both massive and delicate, highlights the importance of structural measures that promote peace, avoiding international or civil wars and combating poverty and violence against vulnerable people and groups, such as children, women and the elderly.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). []

Originally published on the website of France-International Radio.

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