Rwanda

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Rishi Sunak Says no Rwanda Flights Will Take Off Before General Election – Spelling Likely Death of Toxic Scheme

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 6:22pm in

Rishi Sunak has admitted that no flights will go to Rwanda before the general election, on July 4th.

The Prime Minister told LBC that the flights, designed to forcibly take hundreds of asylum seekers to the country, would now not be scheduled to take off until “after the election”.

The admission means that the scheme, which has already cost the Government hundreds of millions of pounds and been the subject of multiple legal and parliamentary battles, is unlikely to now go ahead given the state of current opinion polls.

The opposition Labour Party, which holds an average poll lead of more than 20 points over the Conservatives, has promised to scrap the scheme if they are elected in July.

Keir Starmer’s spokesman told this paper earlier this month that "we will not be sending any flights to Rwanda" under a Labour government.

The project, which was first announced by the former Home Secretary Priti Patel, under Boris Johnson, was ruled unlawful by the UK’s Supreme Court last year.

The court upheld a legal challenge against Sunak’s claim that Rwanda, which is a brutal dictatorship which was recently blamed for the bombing of a refugee camp in neighbouring Congo, would be a “safe” country to send refugees.

Despite this ruling, Sunak pushed ahead with the scheme by passing a new law which permanently redefines Rwanda as a safe place, no matter what conditions prevail in the country.

The passage of the law flew in the face of global perceptions of the country. Just last week a representative from Human Rights Watch was denied entry to Rwanda following the organisation's criticism of humanitarian infringements in the country.

The law also flies in the face of the UK’s own official positions.

Despite branding it a safe country, the UK has continued to accept refugees from Rwanda, while the Foreign Office’s own advice warns that LGBT+ travellers may experience "discrimination and abuse, including from local authorities”.

The scheme has become a kind of talisman for the Conservative Party, with former Home Secretary saying that her "dream" was to see flights take off to the country.

However, public opinion about it has remained split, with an opinion poll commissioned by this paper finding that just 26% of voters believed it would make any meaningful difference to immigration numbers.

The Prime Minister has continued to back the scheme as a "deterrent" against small boat crossings, despite the number of such crossings actually rising so far this year.

He also intends to make his support for it a central part of his coming general election campaign.

Just this morning Sunak told the BBC that he intends to push ahead with it, and cited support for the scheme from the Austrian Chancellor, who he met this week.

However, his admission that no flights will now take off to Rwanda before the election means that the scheme is now unlikely to ever take off at all.

That is likely deliberate. Despite all of the claims to the contrary, one of the biggest drivers of Sunak's decision to hold an election now was fears inside Downing Street that the supposed "deterrent" of Rwanda would prove to be a mirage once flights started taking off.

As Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper put it this morning, "Rishi Sunak's words [this morning] confirm what we've known all along - he doesn't believe this plan will work and that's why he called the election now in the desperate hope that he won’t be found out."

Whatever the motivation, after two years in which it has completely dominated political and moral debate in the UK, the fact remains that the Government's "dream" of sending desperate refugees to the brutal Rwandan dictatorship now looks all but over.

‘Asylum Seekers Could Make UK £1.2 Billion – Instead the Government is Spending That On Keeping them in Inhumane Conditions’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/04/2024 - 6:00pm in

While political leaders sound the rallying call of economic growth being the solution to Britain's problems, an opportunity that could generate more than a billion pounds has been revealed but largely ignored.

In March, a report by the Commission on the Integration of Refugees (CIR) found Britain's coffers could be boosted by £1.2 billion within five years if refugees were properly integrated and granted the right to work.

But rather than supporting the valuable contribution asylum seekers could make to the UK – through plugging the country's labour shortages and paying taxes – the Government is spending the same amount, the National Audit Office revealed, on holding them in remote camps, barracks and barges.

For the same amount of money – roughly the GDP of Grenada42,000 nurses could be hired.

As the CIR findings were published, Sky News revealed that the Government's Rwanda policy – aimed at deterring people from crossing the English Channel in small boats – could cost half a billion pounds, plus hundreds of thousands more, for each asylum seeker deported.

The scheme – which the Supreme Court ruled was unlawful in November 2023 – hit further delays this week after Lords refused to back changes, leading to Rishi Sunak confirming that plans had been dropped to get the first flights off the ground by the end of spring. There were also reports that RAF planes may have to be used as commercial airlines do not want to be involved with the scheme.

 Three migrants rescued at sea during a Channel crossing to the UK in Calais in November 2022. Photo: Andia/Alamy

It is well understood in the migration sector that people who have been forcibly displaced
from their homes, and who have made perilous journeys to the UK, are desperate to get on with rebuilding their lives and contributing to the British economy.

It appears to be a political choice to deny them that opportunity.

Under the current rules, people seeking safety in the UK must wait a year before asking for
permission to work. In the meantime, they are kept on a poverty packet of asylum support – just £1.25 a day for those in hotels.

The mental health impact of surviving in poverty is stark, with enforced inactivity also meaning that people are less likely to contribute, as they might have done, once granted settled status.

Currently, even if permission to work is granted after 12 months – which is not
guaranteed – people awaiting a decision on their asylum claim are limited to jobs on the
Government’s ‘shortage occupation list’. This includes specialist roles such as "skilled
classical ballet dancers and choreographers", "medical radiographers", and "geo-physicists".
How many of us would find work in another country if these were the options?

The UK is an outlier in this area. No other European country has such a restrictive waiting
period for working. Nor do Canada, the United States, or Australia.

In Canada, asylum seekers can work from the day they arrive. In Germany, they must wait three months. In Ireland, five. In Spain, six. These countries also do not limit asylum seekers to a small list of jobs.

There are clear labour shortages in the UK in the social care sector, hospitality,
accommodation, and food services. According to the ONS, nearly a
third of UK businesses are experiencing labour shortages post-COVID lockdowns.

The restrictiveness of the shortages list therefore seems arbitrary.

Scrapping the shortage occupation list and changing the current restrictions on asylum seekers working would give people a chance to integrate into communities and rebuild their lives in dignity.

It would allow people to make the most of their skills and potential, and live
sustainably and self-sufficiently.

It would improve the mental health of those in the asylum system, and help challenge forced labour, exploitation, and modern slavery.

It would deliver significant savings to the taxpayer and generate substantial growth to the UK economy.

It is even popular with the electorate. According to a report by the Lift the Ban campaign, 71% of the public believe that people seeking asylum should be allowed to work.

But this all requires a political choice and, currently, the Government believes spending money on housing asylum seekers in camps cut off from our communities is a better option than helping them to help the UK.

As refugee charities have been warning for months, these large-scale campsites are not
only inhumane, but they are more expensive than the alternatives – hotels or dispersal accommodation – and the Government has "incurred losses and increased risk" in pursuing them.

The NAO found that hotel accommodation – which comes with its own plethora of harmful outcomes – cost £46 million less.

Damning reports by the since-sacked Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and
Immigration
, as well as third-sector organisations, have demonstrated the real and lasting harm sites such as the Bibby Stockholm and RAF Wethersfield are causing to people contained there. And now we learn they are not even delivering the cost-savings promised.

Albanian asylum seeker Leonard Farraku was found dead on the Bibby Stockholm barge in December 2023. According to refugee charities, many others at Wethersfield – another site housing asylum seekers – have attempted to take their lives. This policy is costing lives, as well as taxpayers.T

This is the stark reality: that this approach is not about cost efficiencies – it is a political choice, which comes at a devastating human cost to refugees fleeing persecution, at an eye-watering economic cost to the taxpayer.

Rwanda ‘Cash for Humans’ Flights Leave Asylum Seekers ‘Terrified’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/04/2024 - 8:33pm in

I was about to interrupt the world’s largest aviation conference. It was 2022 and, along with another activist who’d survived torture and navigated the UK asylum system, I’d travelled to Amsterdam to publicly condemn the private airlines who’d agreed to undertake the Government’s cruel ‘cash-for-humans' Rwanda flights.

As you would expect, my heart rate was through the roof, and I was extremely nervous. By the time my cue came, I stood up and took to the stage to say as loud as I could that Privilege Style airlines were profiting from the pain of refugees. I only remember a woman walking me off the stage after I’d said my piece.

The stunt was a success. The crowd applauded and, after the event, a member of the board even wrote to us to express their support. Along with public support and other actions organised by groups that I’m part of (the charity Freedom from Torture and the survivor of torture network Survivors Speak OUT) as part of our Stop the Flights campaign, Privilege Style, the airline tipped to carry out the flights, emailed us to confirm that they had pulled out of the scheme. I was so proud. We’d done it.

These memories are now complicated for me. While I’m proud of my team’s achievements, the time between then and now is littered with false hopes, anti-refugee hysteria, and now the real possibility of a flight to Rwanda. I feel like all our efforts, after all this time, have come to very little. People like us have been ignored.

I know what it’s like to have to leave my home against my will, and at very short notice. I have also taken a traumatic journey under difficult circumstances to reach safety. This unexpected chapter turned my life upside down, and it’s only through support and having the reassurance of knowing that my status is secured that I’ve been able to start the hard work of recovering and rebuilding my life.

But for so many other people I know who are waiting for their claims to be processed, in some cases for decades, they are terrified that the plane ticket to Rwanda could come at any time and have raised these feelings of anxiety in our group meetings. They are living in limbo in the UK and haven’t been able to start rebuilding their lives yet. One phone call could spell disaster.

Despite claims by the government that Rwanda is ‘safe’, the Supreme Court, UNHCR, and other human rights experts don’t agree. There are still many serious human rights concerns.

In the time since announcing the scheme, while arguing that Rwanda was safe, the Government has also granted asylum to Rwandan refugees. All of this makes my hair stand up on end. How can our Government play politics with the lives of people fleeing persecution, war, and torture? Some of the people who this Government is happy to put on a plane include victims of human trafficking and survivors of torture.

The Bill I am fighting will allow the Government to shirk its responsibility to commitments that the UK solemnly made in the wake of the Second World War. The people in power are playing God with human lives.

We are bound to see images and footage of people being herded onto planes like cattle, being flown to a country 4,000 miles away where those on board have no family or cultural ties, where there’s no guarantee of safety or a roof over their head, and where the possibility of being sent back to the hands of their torturers can’t be ruled out. We are flying people into the unknown. I ask you, is this what 'safe’ looks like?

On Monday, the Rwanda Bill returns to the House of Commons, meaning we are one step closer to it passing and Suella Braverman’s ‘dream’ of flights in the air coming true. For me, as a refugee, the dream is a nightmare.

Rwanda Creates Nearly a Million Refugees Since Signing Asylum Deal with UK Government

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/02/2024 - 12:57am in

Twelve miles from the Rwanda border, in the shadow of the Virunga Mountains, a city of tents sprawls across the volcanic rock. A boy in his early teens points out the explosions lighting up the sky just a few miles away. There are no schools set up here yet – the thousands of children stuck here have little to do – but he’s keen to show off his few words of English. “One – two – three – M23!” he says, miming an AK-47, as artillery fired at the M23 militia blasts in the background. 

This is Bulengo, one of the Eastern DRC’s many camps for internally displaced people, where numbers have swelled to around 120,000 since 2021, when a rebel militia that many thought had disappeared resurged and tore through the North Kivu region.

After nearly a decade of quiet, the M23 – an organisation with several former and current leaders sanctioned by the UK or jailed for war crimes – is back, and as brutal as ever.

The M23’s main backer, Rwanda, has been pressured into cutting off support before but, this time, bolstered by the UK’s unwavering support, it has little inclination to pull back its proxy death squads from its campaign of mass rape and murder. 

“When the M23 came we didn’t have anywhere to go,” says Dee, a woman who fled to the camp from Kitchanga with her seven children when M23 stormed the city nearly two years ago. “They have their own rules that we couldn’t live with. They kill people and take the women away and do bad things to them.”

Like most people here in Bulengo, Dee’s children were born long after the Rwanda genocide, but its legacy has pursued them across borders and generations.

Over a hellish 100 days in 1994, and with the complicity of the French Government, extremists from Rwanda’s dominant Hutu ethnic group murdered a million minority Tutsis and any Hutus who tried to stop them. Abandoned by the international community, a Tutsi-led army, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, fought back and won a decisive victory – but as both Hutu and Tutsi civilians fled across the border to escape civil war, the violence moved with them.

New militias formed under the guise of protecting their own ethnic groups, enacting hideous massacres on each other’s communities in the Eastern DRC, while using the conflict as an excuse to forcibly recruit child soldiers, sexually enslave women and girls, and seize parts of the DRC’s enormously lucrative mineral trade for personal gain.

The families sheltering in Bulengo are Rwandan Hutus, making them a target for the Tutsi M23s. 

In 2012, a UN Security Council investigation into this militia found that the Rwandan Government was sending the group money, fighters, and weapons. International bodies and foreign governments, including the UK, suspended aid to Rwanda, and the Rwandan Government – which relied on this aid to make up 35% of its budget – softened its stance.

In March 2013, General Bosco 'The Terminator’ Ntaganda, a Rwandan senior M23 leader, handed himself in to the US Embassy in Kigali and was transferred to the Hague, where he was convicted on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, earning the longest sentence in the International Criminal Court’s history. The M23, meanwhile, dwindled almost out of existence. Until now.  

In the two years since the M23 resumed hostilities, investigation after investigation by the UN, human rights groups, Rwanda’s African neighbours, and governments around the world has concluded that Rwanda is, again, largely responsible. 

“Kigali has a long record in destabilising eastern Congo, leading to mass displacement and immense human suffering,” says Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “The Rwandan support to the M23 in weaponry, troops and direct military intervention has been well-documented and Rwandan officials involved may be complicit in M23 abuses and war crimes.”

As in 2012, many governments are urgently calling for Rwanda to end this complicity.

“State support of armed groups is unacceptable, and we reiterate our call on Rwanda to end its support to UN- and U.S.-sanctioned M23 and to immediately withdraw Rwanda Defence Force personnel from eastern DRC,” a US State Department spokesperson wrote in an email. 

Missing from these calls, though, is the UK.

Rather than pressuring Rwanda to pull back from the DRC since 2022, the UK Government has actively stepped up its support for Kigali – and Kigali has stepped up its support for the M23. 

Ignoring the British High Commissioner in Rwanda’s human rights concerns, and Foreign Office warnings that this would make it hard for the UK to challenge Rwanda’s behaviour inside and outside the country, in July 2021, then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab approved Rwanda for “intensive engagement” in the UK’s new scheme to remove refugees seeking asylum in the UK to third countries. Within three months, the M23s – who had lain low for nearly a decade – began to regroup. 

In March 2022, while the UK Government was preparing the scheme’s funding documents to be signed by the Chancellor, the Rwanda-backed militia attacked UN peacekeepers and Congolese forces in the Eastern DRC, and shot down a UN helicopter. Forty-six thousand civilians were driven from their homes. In a single week, Rwanda had helped create nearly half as many refugees as the 92,000 the UK was looking to clear from its backlog of applications. 

At this point, the Rwanda agreement was still weeks from being signed.

The UK could have pulled out or demanded Kigali end support of the M23 as a condition of the deal. This had, after all, worked in 2012, when the UK – then Rwanda’s second-largest individual donor after the US – blocked £16 million in aid over concerns Rwanda was sending fighters and equipment to the M23.

But this time around, in the wake of the attacks, the UK publicly announced the new refugee resettlement deal – the Migration and Economic Development Plan – on 14 April, and made its first payment of £120 million to the Rwandan Government the same month. 

A Guardian investigation found that the UK Government also asked the Foreign Office to rewrite its own report on Rwanda’s safety and human rights record to make it sound more positive, and even sent the document to a Rwandan Colonel for review. Far worse than simply staying silent, as the Foreign Office had feared, the UK seemed willing to manipulate its own findings in the services of Rwandan PR.

Almost immediately, Rwanda-backed atrocities escalated.

In May, Rwanda sent 1,000 soldiers across the border to support a major M23 offensive, attacking more UN peacekeepers and seizing territory. Over the next few days, the militia tried to seize the provincial capital, Goma, displacing another 70,000 people. 

The UK Government sent Rwanda another £20million. 

Over the next 12 months, M23 militants waged a campaign of unbridled destruction and violence across the Eastern DRC. In the village of Kinshishe, investigators documented 14 mass graves left behind by the departing militia, while women in Kanombe, Kitchanga, and Mushaki describe being gang-raped in front of their children and husbands.

“As they were raping me, one said ‘we’ve come from Rwanda to destroy you’,” a survivor told Human Rights Watch. A string of UN Security Council reports asserted that Rwanda was backing these atrocities, triggering international outcry – except from the UK, which instead paid Rwanda another no-strings-attached £100 million.

By October 2023 – 18 months after the UK signed its deal with Rwanda – not a single asylum seeker had been relocated to the country. A record number of people had, however, been displaced in the DRC, with almost a million of these refugees directly attributable to the M23. By now, the UK had paid Rwanda over a quarter of a billion pounds while refusing to answer questions about how the money was being spent.

"The UK Government continuously refuses to call out and condemn Rwanda's support for M23,” says former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has also long campaigned against UK complicity in conflict mineral exploitation in the DRC. “How much more violence, death and displacement should the people of the DRC endure before the international community wakes up and takes action?"

Asked whether any of this money had been or could be used to fund either M23 rebels or the Rwandan military’s illegal incursions into DRC, a Home Office spokesperson said that the money was “intended” for various development sectors (and to claim otherwise would be “simply incorrect”) but did not state whether funds had actually been used for this purpose and did not respond to repeated requests for clarification.

The spokesperson also refused to name a single project that had been or would be funded by the MEDP or the Economic Transformation and Integration Fund (ETIF). They declined to say which Rwandan ministry was responsible for administering the ETIF or whether the UK Government has any way of ensuring these funds are used for their intended purpose. 

The spokesperson said that initial set-up costs for asylum processing were covered by a separate payment (of £20 million) in 2022, leaving the other £220 million unaccounted for to date.

In an email, the Rwandan High Commissioner’s Office in London said that “funds received under the MEDP go towards ensuring we are prepared to receive the migrants when they arrive, and towards Rwanda's economic and social development”.. It declined to provide any specific examples of development projects or investments. Asked repeatedly whether any UK money is used to fund the M23, the High Commissioner’s Office described the militia as a “Congolese problem” but did not deny the allegation.

“Rwanda is not responsible for security and governance failures in the DRC, including the integration of the genocidal militia FDLR into the DRC armed forces,” it said, referring both to the brutal Rwandan Hutu militia that collaborated with the DRC army to fight M23 in 2022, and to one of the M23’s main grievances – that its fighters have not been integrated into the DRC army. “We will not allow this conflict to spill over across our border,” it said. 

Labour’s Shadow Immigration Secretary Stephen Kinnock, said: "These are very concerning allegations that the Government should be taking seriously. Instead, they're ploughing ahead with a failing scheme.”

The UK Government is yet to disclose any information about how Rwanda has spent the £240 million paid or precisely what it will do with the tens of millions more promised this year.

In 2022, the Foreign Office told Devex that the money was paid by the Treasury, not through the aid budget, and that it didn’t know what it would be used for. In September, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman claimed that briefing MPs on the Rwanda scheme's costs would be too “commercially sensitive”. 

In March 2023, Braverman travelled to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, to promote the project, accompanied by a hand-picked entourage of journalists. This included a well-documented visit to a newly constructed housing development, Bwiza Riverside Homes, which Braverman claimed would be used to house resettled refugees. But an employee at Bwiza said the housing development has nothing to do with the UK Government and none of the units would be used for refugees.

When we visited in February, joining a tour of starter homes with a Rwandan couple and their toddler, more than half of the units had already been sold. “This project is 100% sponsored by the Government of Rwanda,” the estate agent said. “It’s a Rwandan project to get [Rwandan] people a home.” He claimed Braverman had only come to Bwiza to meet graduates from a construction training scheme they were running in partnership with a British firm.

At another site in Gatanga, where Braverman gave a speech claiming refugee accommodation would be ready in six months, construction appeared to be still in the early stages, a year on. Signage also indicated that it is a Rwandan Housing Authority project, with no mention of the UK.

Asked why Braverman visited these locations and whether she knew her claims about refugee housing at Bwiza were untrue, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We have provided funding to help cover accommodation but the exact locations are a decision for the Rwandan Government.”

The Rwandan Housing Authority did not reply to requests for comment.

Corbyn added: “As long as the Government continues to champion its shameful flagship policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, it will fail in fulfilling its international obligations toward refugees, and their rights to live in safety and peace."

It is unclear how Rwanda will meet the capacity to resettle any asylum seekers from the UK. There are already 130,000 refugees in the country, most of them hemmed into five enormous camps, where they have waited 10 or even 20 years to be processed. Many are stateless Congolese Tutsis either born in the camps or who arrived as young children, and have grown into adults with little chance of ever living a normal life.

“We don’t have many opportunities here because there is no hope of getting citizenship. The only hope is to go to another country,” says Romeo – his nickname – a shy, aspiring musician living in Nyabiheke IDP camp, four hours’ drive into the countryside from Kigali. 

Romeo fled anti-Tutsi violence in the Eastern DRC in 2007, when he was just seven years old, and has lived here ever since. His father died here, still waiting for a decision, and his mother is getting frail. Most people want to be resettled in the UK, the US, or Canada, he says. “There are people in the camp who are not happy because they don’t have the same opportunities as Rwandans. I would like to go to the UK.”

There’s a remote chance Romeo may get his wish. Under the terms of the deal, the UK has agreed to resettle “a small number of some of the most vulnerable refugees hosted in Rwanda”, according to the Home Office, although the conditions of the deal are hazy.

In the meantime, young people languishing in these camps risk being exploited by the Rwandan Government to fuel violence in neighbouring countries. 

In a cemetery near the tiny village of Vugizo in Burundi, which neighbours both Rwanda and the DRC, rows of new crosses mark the graves of those massacred by the RED-Tabara, a militia that Burundi designates a terror group.

In December, members of the militia crossed from the DRC to murder 20 people, including 12 children. Burundi responded by closing its border with Rwanda, which it blames for funding and sheltering the group. Rwanda denies this claim, but in 2015, an expert panel advising the UN Security Council reported that RED-Tabara combatants told interviewers they were recruited directly from refugee camps inside Rwanda and trained by Rwandan military personnel. The M23 has also recruited fighters from Rwandan camps in the past.

Brendan O’Hara, the SNP's Westminster Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said: "Rwanda is not a safe country. It has an extremely concerning human rights record, and the UK Home Secretary's own briefings say as much. The UK Government should not be spending hundreds of millions of pounds in the middle of a cost of living crisis to send some of the most vulnerable people in the world to a country where they could face further human rights violations."

In the meantime, M23 fighters continue to ravage the Eastern DRC. Militants are fast closing in on Goma, threatening another catastrophic refugee crisis. 

“The UK should call out Rwanda on its support for the M23 and take steps to further sanction M23 leaders and the Rwandan commanders most responsible for providing military assistance,” Lewis Mudge, from Human Rights Watch, said. “There is still time for the UK to change its blinkered approach to the horrors taking place.”

‘Untold Damage to the UK’s Reputation’: Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights Slams the Rwanda Bill

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/02/2024 - 11:03am in

Parliament’s most senior human rights committee condemns today the Government’s Rwanda Bill as “fundamentally incompatible with the UK’s human rights obligations.”

The Joint Committee on Human Rights – composed of MPs and peers – effectively rejects the bill in its entirety proposing no amendments after a line-by-line examination of all the clauses.

The report is published on the day the House of Lords starts its detailed examination of the bill which is expected to give a very rough ride to the government and the Prime Minister for introducing it as an emergency measure.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill facilitates the removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda. It was proposed by Rishi Sunak after the Supreme Court rejected Rwanda as a safe country and the European Court of Human Rights stopped a flight going to Rwanda last year.

The bill strips out virtually all protection for asylum seekers and immigrants who arrive illegally in the UK in boats across the Channel under the UK’s own Human Rights Act. It severely limits the courts to hear appeals against deportation, allows ministers and civil servants to ignore directions from the European Court of Human Rights and orders the courts to treat Rwanda as a safe country under a new treaty with the UK.

The committee is  “particularly alarmed” at the disapplication of part of the  Act that allows authorities to ignore human rights  granted under the  European Convention of Human Rights which the UK is a signatory.

Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Joanna Cherry QC MP said: 

“This Bill is designed to remove vital safeguards against persecution and human rights abuses, including the fundamental right to access a court. Hostility to human rights is at its heart and no amendments can salvage it. 

 “This isn’t just about the rights and wrongs of the Rwanda policy itself. By taking this approach, the Bill risks untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights internationally.  

“Human rights aren’t inconvenient barriers that must be overcome to reach policy goals, they are fundamental protections that ensure individuals are not harmed by Government action. If a policy is sound it should be able to withstand judicial scrutiny, not run away from it.” 

The report is backed by the majority of the committee’s members who include Baroness Kennedy,  Baroness Lawrence, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham and Lord Alton.

Still, three of the committee’s Conservative members rejected the report’s findings by voting against clauses in the report. They are Jill Mortimer, MP for Hartlepool, who won the “Red Wall” seat in a by-election during Boris Johnson’s premiership; Lord Murray of Blidworth, a former Home Office minister and Baroness Meyer, the widow of Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British Ambassador to the United States. But they did not go as far as producing their own minority report to contradict the main report’s findings.

The committee is sceptical of the claims by the government that Rwanda is safe and that in practice asylum seekers sent there will be protected even if their claims to be allowed to enter the UK are rejected. The bill says they will be safe there but the committee and the Lords committee that examined international treaties could not find the mechanism to protect them.

The report is most scathing about the damage to Britain’s standing and reputation by passing the law saying it is “in jeopardy”.

“If the UK enacts legislation that fails to respect its own international human rights commitments it will seriously harm its ability to influence other nations to respect the international legal order.”

It also raises the issue of whether the action by the government over Rwanda undermines the Good Friday agreement and the Windsor agreement in Northern Ireland. This has been raised by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which says the agreement says Northern Ireland has to follow the European Convention on Human Rights and immigrants must have access to the courts.

The Government denies the agreement is so far-reaching. The committee is not satisfied and asks for ministers to lay a report before Parliament on this before the bill reaches the Report stage in the Lords.

Israel planning to transfer Palestinians to Congo

Ethnic cleansing plans outed further but still ignored by western ‘mainstream’ media

Image: ActionAid

Israel is negotiating with Congo – it is unclear from reports which of the two neighbouring Congos – and other African nations to transfer the Palestinian people, according to reports in the Times of Israel and its sister site Zman Israel.

Both the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) regularly see serious human rights violations, including massacres. A 2022 US Department of State report on human rights in the Republic, which is commonly known as Congo Brazzaville after its capital city to distinguish it from its neighbour – states that:

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference

and more.

In the DRC, human rights groups have noted massacres and other human rights violations. Amnesty International said in 2022 that the DRC:

continued to experience serious human rights violations, including mass killings in the context of armed conflict and inter-communal violence, a crackdown on dissent and ill-treatment of detainees. People from regions affected by armed conflict, including eastern DRC, were particularly affected amid mass displacement and a deepening humanitarian crisis. The authorities continued to show a lack of political will to hold the perpetrators of human rights violations to account. The right to education was violated.

The Times quoted a ‘senior’ security cabinet source and comments by Israeli minister Gila Gamliel:

Israeli officials have held clandestine talks with the African nation of Congo and several others for the potential acceptance of Gaza emigrants.

“Congo will be willing to take in migrants, and we’re in talks with others,” a senior source in the security cabinet tells [journalist] Shalom Yerushalmi.

Yerushalmi quotes Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel saying at the Knesset yesterday: “At the end of the war Hamas rule will collapse, there are no municipal authorities, the civilian population will be entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. There will be no work, and 60% of Gaza’s agricultural land will become security buffer zones.”

The UK government has disgraced itself by continued attempts to transfer desperate refugees to Rwanda, attempts continually blocked by the courts – but the Israeli regime was the first to do it, sending around 4,000 Black refugees fleeing war in Eritrea and Sudan to Rwanda between 2013 and 2018 before discontinuing what it called ‘voluntary’ departure – similar to the ‘voluntary emigration’ euphemism it uses for its ethnic cleansing plan, alongside ‘humanitarian migration’.

Israel has an appalling record toward Black people, even Black Jews – and last year threatened to deport them, too. The SAGE Race & Class Journal notes that:

Ethiopian Jews who have been brought into Israel in several mass transfer operations, have found themselves relegated to an underclass. They are not only racially discriminated against in housing, employment, education, the army and even in the practice of their religion, but have also been unwittingly used to bolster illegal settlements.

Now, as well as the already-outed plan to force huge numbers of Palestinians out of Gaza into the Egyptian desert, Israel is actively working on plans to force more out of the Middle East altogether and into Africa. The Israeli regime’s war crimes continue to pile up.

Despite the similarities with the UK’s racist government, at the time of writing the UK’s so-called ‘mainstream’ media have not reported Israel’s plan – as has been the case with much of Israel’s racism and criminality.

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