Suella Braverman picks up Priti Patel’s dregs with her grotesque Rwanda ‘dream’


Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

THERE are at present no safe and legal routes to asylum in the UK

Put another way, there are no illegal routes to arriving in a country if it is to seek asylum.

These are central tenets of the Refugee Convention and have formed part of our international obligations for more than 70 years. Through many of those 70 years the economic and social situation in the UK has been difficult and upholding such tenets is not easy. It is an obligation to which we have committed.

To return people who are seeking asylum without a full and fair determination of their asylum claim is to breach the law and to enact “refoulement”, a French word for “sending people back to where they came from”, and to do so against the Refugee Convention.

To send people who have claimed asylum to a different country, like, say, Rwanda, is to begin to traffic in human beings in the same way – given the sums of money exchanging hands between the UK Government and the Rwandan Government – ​​as the very people who are intermediaries in transporting people, that the UK Government now seeks to stop.

READ MORE: Tories set to ‘trash’ international law with Suella Braverman’s asylum ban

Let’s rewind a minute and remember that this particular state of affairs, with boats crossing the Channel, has been produced by the closing of safer routes, under the Channel Tunnel, irregular, yes, but not quite as horrific as the drownings at sea. And it’s been created by the UK Government “working with the French Government” to stop the passage through the Tunnel. It’s also been created by Brexit.

Brexit meant that the European agreements on asylum – known as Dublin III – were undone by the UK Government. These allowed for asylum seekers arriving in the European Union to be expected to make their claim in the first country of arrival. This has now been torn up as a result of Brexit and the UK has gone it alone. So the problem of very unsafe crossings of the Channel is a problem created entirely by the UK Government. It barely existed before Brexit.

Add to this the close relationship between this UK Government regime and the former Australian Government, who have advised Cabinet in Westminster on how to “turn back the boats” – an Australian policy which led to widespread condemnation. The Australian Government, as part of this policy, refused asylum to anyone arriving by boat, but not to those arriving by plane.

In this game of double standards with people’s lives they detained people who arrived by boat on Manus Island and Nauru in appalling conditions. Behrooz Boochani’s book – one of the most important books of this century so far – No Friend But The Mountains – documents the experience. Behrooz has since been granted refugee status in Aotearoa New Zealand and advocates effectively and passionately through his art and writing for an end to all such egregious policies.

Suella Braverman's Rwanda policy goes against the Universal Declaration of Human RightsThe Home Office’s Rwanda policy harms the most vulnerable people in our society

Yesterday, the Home Sectretary, Suella Braverman, picked up the dregs left over by her predecessor Ms Patel and threw red meat to a very frightened focus group of voters who respond well to suggestions that those they perceive to be more vulnerable than themselves might suffer terribly . It’s a proven psychological strategy and it is perverse.

To make a speech citing two extreme examples of obstacles to deportation to Rwanda and then to follow this up with gleeful hope that the right-wing Press will have headlines celebrating a “successful” deportation to Rwanda before Christmas is extreme.

It isn’t just a sad statement of the parting of the ways with the 70 year tradition of being signatories to the Refugee Convention, it is a grotesque celebration of the harm to be imposed by the Government of the most vulnerable.

READ MORE: Suella Braverman says it would be her ‘dream’ to see asylum seeker flight to Rwanda

There is nothing at all easy about fulfilling our obligations. There is nothing straightforward about balancing the needs of the homeless and destitute in our own society and the need to welcome the stranger and the person seeking asylum.

A grown up country will make careful, balanced decisions, will learn from mistakes, refine and adjust and will use the treatment of those seeking asylum to redouble its efforts to create a long term policy or, for instance, language education, or the extension of social housing. The immaturity and desperation in play in the Home Secretaries speech smacks of a Home Office out of ideas, grabbing for headlines and way out of its depth.

Legal advice is available aplenty from reputable bodies such as the UNHCR. This is what must be followed carefully in Scotland, lest the behavior of our neighbors and those making immigration decisions, infects us with any degree of complacency.

Care for those seeking asylum is reserved to the UK. Resourcing is messy but it is a duty on us to find the best possible standards for this care, for in doing so, we set the standard for all those who are vulnerable, destitute and fearful in our midst.

Alison Phipps is UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages ​​and the Arts at the University of Glasgow.

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