Exploring the UK’s Rwanda Policy and its Racial Relevance

A bill proposed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to permit the government to deport asylum seekers who enter the country illegally to Rwanda was scheduled to be put to a vote in the British parliament on January 17.

The strategy, an innovative approach to immigration management, was initially unveiled in April 2022. It aims to lower the number of asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. According to the concept, those who entered the UK illegally or as asylum seekers without a valid visa may be transported to Rwanda to have their claims for asylum reviewed and resolved there. According to Rishi Sunak, Rwandan laws are the “best thing we can get” when it comes to combating illegal immigration.

To begin with, an asylum seeker is a person who has fled their country and is waiting to hear from authorities on their request for asylum in order to seek shelter from persecution and grave human rights abuses in another nation. They have not yet been granted official refugee status. As the definition entails, they are looking for protection, and it is unsafe to send asylum seekers back to Rwanda. Early in the new millennium, Rwanda experienced violence and instability, including its involvement in wars within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Supreme Court has even declared that the proposal is “unlawful” and said that refugees should not be allowed to remain in Rwanda since they may be taken abroad to suffer persecution.  The Supreme Court concluded that there was a chance that migrants might be returned to their home countries or to other nations where they would face abuse. To put it briefly, everyone should be permitted to travel to another nation in order to request asylum as it is a human right. However, the measure fundamentally conflicts with the UK’s commitments under the human rights treaty.

The debate on immigration captures the intricacies of a British state run on the basis of race. In the past, Britain has been involved in a continuous process of creating the nation and its citizens, identifying and rejecting individuals who do not belong, and assigning roles and responsibilities to particular groups based on certain “natural” traits (Schuster, 2010). As a result, the immigration system has been guided by an underlying racial logic that is frequently unsaid but essential to it. According to Clifford Geertz (1985: 261), “Foreignness begins at the skin’s level, not at the water’s edge.” European nations have had to deal with the lingering effects of colonialism, which have affected ideas of racial hierarchy, citizenship, and belonging. Migration patterns and perceptions of immigrants from these areas have been shaped by the historical ties between European powers and their former colonies. Furthermore, colonialism’s legacy has aided in the racialization of particular groups, sustaining prejudices and disparities throughout the immigration system.

The racially biased foundations of the immigration system persist in influencing policies and practices, sometimes resulting in unequal treatment and results for various racial and ethnic groups, in spite of efforts to foster diversity and multiculturalism. Fostering a more inclusive and fair immigration system in Britain and worldwide requires acknowledging and resolving these underlying racial factors. 

Image : Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

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