Saturday 25 March 2023

Maintaining the flow of people?


It’s far from clear just how many of the UK’s unwanted migrants Rwanda is willing and able to accept. Some initial reports suggested the number was around 200 (presumably, per year) but the Home Secretary has repeatedly insisted that there is no limit and that Rwanda can take many thousands. Whether the ‘bung’ that the UK government has given the government of Rwanda will be enough in the second case is doubtful; it would be a very strange arrangement which capped the cost but not the number of people involved. If the numbers are open-ended, the cost is likely to be open-ended as well. Perhaps they’re just hoping that the issue will never arise: they seem to fondly imagine that sending a single planeload, or perhaps two, will have such a chilling effect on all those seeking to come to the UK that the flow will simply stop, however unlikely that might seem to anyone else.

In the meantime, the Rwandan army is making regular incursions into the Congo in support of the M23 rebels, who are laying waste to large areas of that country. To date, it appears that around 800,000 people have been driven from their homes by the fighting and are living in refugee camps. No doubt some of those will, in due course, set out on a perilous journey to reach safety, possibly even involving small boats at some point. It would be a surprise if any of them thought that Rwanda might be a ‘safe place’ to be sent in the circumstances, but that doesn’t mean that Rwanda’s authoritarian leader wouldn’t be happy to be paid to take them. And I doubt that Braverman or Sunak would think twice about sending them either, along with a cheque. As if the whole Rwanda project wasn’t distasteful enough in itself, and the people smugglers insufficiently evil, the Rwandan regime is creating more refugees which will potentially keep the people (and the money) flowing. And the UK is likely to end up funding it; treating desperate people as a commodity to be traded seems to suit all concerned. People smugglers, governments – aren’t they ultimately doing the same thing here? The main difference seems to be that the people smugglers take them somewhere that they want to go, and they travel voluntarily. It's quite something when those evil enough to take money from desperate people before sending them on a life-threatening journey can almost look benevolent compared to governments. It all tells us more about the true values of Sunak and Braverman than anything they say can ever do.

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