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‘Outsourcing torture’: What do British people think about contentious Rwanda plan?

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: British Secretary of State for the Home Department Suella Braverman leaves after attending the weekly cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, United Kingdom on December 13, 2022. (Raşid Necati Aslım - Anadolu Agency)
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Dec 23, 2022 - 05:13 AM

LONDON (AA) – The controversial plan to ship off vulnerable asylum seekers to Rwanda is proving to be a tough sell for the British government.

For months, officials at all levels – starting from the very top – have been bending over backwards to pass it off as a policy rooted in “common sense” that enjoys the support of “the vast majority.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been at the forefront, touting the scheme as a “humane and practical alternative” for people coming to the UK through “dangerous and illegal routes.”

Braverman and her boss, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, were jubilant when London’s High Court this week declared the plan “lawful,” much to the chagrin of human rights groups and activists.

However, the apparent judicial blessing and incessant official rhetoric has done little to sway a public that remains highly skeptical of the government’s claims of morality.

Opinion polls paint a seriously bleak picture for Sunak, Braverman, and their coterie of loyal officials.

A paltry 10% of people believe the Rwanda scheme is the best way to deal with Britain’s immigration challenges, according to a recent YouGov survey.

“Seven in ten Britons (72%) disapprove of the government’s handling of immigration, including a large majority of 2019 Conservative voters (73%),” read the survey report.

These figures are all the more damning given that nearly a third of Britons, 32%, view immigration and asylum as “a top-three issue.”

Latest reports put the number of Channel crossings recorded by the UK this year at over 40,000.

Seeing the extent of the issue, nearly 40% of people “think it should be made easier for people to apply for asylum in Britain from overseas, so they don’t need to try and cross the Channel in boats.”

‘Inhuman and despicable’

Similar sentiments were reflected in conversations with members of the public, with people blasting the government for its cruelty and accusing it of “stoking up paranoia” to draw away attention from its own failures.

David Edwards, a resident of Lincolnshire, denounced the treatment of asylum seekers as “inhuman and despicable.”

“I’m not sure whether the Rwanda policy will happen eventually. At the moment, it just seems to be a policy that they talk about in order to, perhaps, distract from other issues such as corruption in the government,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“If there’s a problem in the country, they’ll point fingers to the English Channel to distract everybody and play the race card, which they’ve been doing for several years.”

For Gareth Kearns, one of dozens of protesters gathered at London’s Parliament Square, the Rwanda plan is “utterly disgusting and … just immoral.”

He spoke about the issue of Albanian asylum seekers increasingly making the perilous trip across the Channel, accusing the government of making them a “scapegoat because they are not coming from a war-torn place.”

Prime Minister Sunak recently said 13,000 Albanians arrived in the UK in 2022, a third of them on small boats, while the National Crime Agency has accused Albanian crime gangs of using Channel migrants to staff cannabis farms and increase their foothold in the UK’s £5 billion ($6 billion) cocaine market.

The narrative of keeping Albanians out is being pushed to “keep stoking this paranoia about this great influx of immigrants,” said Kearns.

‘Rooted in racism’

Murtaza Ali Shah, another protester in London, said the Rwanda scheme is like “outsourcing torture.”

The entire policy is rooted in “a mindset of racism and discrimination,” he said.

Pointing to Rwanda’s appalling human rights record, he added: “Rwanda is not in a position to protect its own vulnerable communities. It does not give rights to its own people. How then is it going to ensure the rights of those seeking asylum?”

He criticized the British government for “throwing their own issues at somebody else’s door.”

“It is very unfortunate that there are politicians and sections within the media who have … supported this very cruel and unfair policy,” said Shah.​​​​​​​

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