‘It feels like we are taking part in human trafficking.’
As the first flight to Rwanda carrying migrants who cross the English Channel is just days away – expected to leave on June 14 – Priti Patel’s controversial immigration deal with Rwanda has been blasted as ‘disgraceful’ by employees of the asylum department.
A one-way ticket
Under the scheme, some asylum seekers who have arrived in Britain are being sent to Rwanda where their application will be processed. If their application is successful, they will not be given refugee status in the UK but will be granted asylum by Rwanda. Unsuccessful applicants may be deported back to their country of origin, or another nation where they have a right to reside.
The scheme is targeted at migrants who arrive in Britain outside established schemes, especially those who cross the English Channel in small boats.
The policy has been widely criticised by charities, the opposition, and the European Union. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been among the critics of the plan, describing it as the “opposite of the nature of God.”
As the debut Rwanda flight gets closer, a worker at the asylum department has issued a scathing attack on the highly contentious asylum plan. Talking to Sky News, the anonymous civil servant said there is a feeling of ‘disbelief’ at the policy within their department.
Like ‘human trafficking’
Likening the policy to human trafficking, the Home Office member of staff said: “We should offer sanctuary and provide safe haven for those who need it, but it feels like we are taking part in human trafficking – transporting people against their will and paying another country to take them.”
“I think this policy is disgraceful to be honest. Since the Windrush scandal we are meant to be making ethical policy-making decisions and to create a less hostile environment.
“It is not only just going to create more hurt for those individuals but internally for the department – despite raising concerns about it, we are being told it’s our duty as civil servants to implement the policy irrespective of our concerns about it,” they added.
The unnamed source also spoke of how staff in the department have raised concerns with the Permanent Secretary in the Home Office about the legality of the policy and the impact it will have on the families, children, and LGBTQ asylum seekers.
“The majority of staff who work for the Home Office are trying to do a job that means the UK provides safety for refugees from across the world – we are in it to try and make people’s lives better.
“But we feel like we are being forced to implement a policy that is the opposite of that, and most staff disagree with that and fear that it will put people’s lives at risk rather than properly welcoming people into the UK,” said the civil servant.
Campaigners launch court bid over ‘unlawful’ policy
The comments came as campaigners formally launch their court bid to stop the controversial plans. Care4Calais, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and Detention Action have launched judicial review proceedings in the High Court. The court action challenges what the campaigners describe as an “unlawful policy.”
With the first flight to Rwanda expected to leave next week, lawyers of more than 90 migrants have submitted legal challenges asking for the individuals to remain in the UK.
James Wilson, deputy director of Detention Action, commented on the “unlawful policy”: “In her desire to punish people for seeking asylum by forcing them onto a plane to Rwanda, Priti Patel has overstepped her authority. By rushing through what we say is an unlawful policy, she is turning a blind eye to the many clear dangers and human rights violations that it would inflict on people seeking asylum,” he said.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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