Last week the UK government announced its plans to initiate offshore processing and settling of asylum seekers in Rwanda. These measures are inhumane, dangerous, and ineffective. They contravene international human rights obligations, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), established as cornerstones of refugee protection in the wake of our own bitter experience as Jews in the Holocaust.
This new policy consolidates the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ in the greatest attack on refugee rights in 50 years, spearheaded by the Nationality and Borders Bill. It criminalises people forced to take irregular journeys to the UK, it undermines fair hearing for asylum seekers and expands an inhumane system of offshore indefinite immigration detention. As Jews, we have been forced to seek asylum many times, and have an important stake in maintaining a domestic protection system for refugees and asylum seekers.
Why is this approach so harmful?
- Lack of scrutiny: These camps would be hidden from public view and almost impossible to access for journalists and human rights monitors. The Rwandan Government persecutes critics, including journalists and opposing politicians (and where Violations of the rights to a fair trial, freedom of expression and privacy continued, alongside enforced disappearances, allegations of torture and excessive use of force Continue to happen).
- Dehumanising & prone to abuse: It is inspired by Australia’s widely condemned offshore detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. They caused more than a dozen deaths, numerous cases of violence, sexual assault, and suicide.
- Rwanda has a poor human rights record: The UK gave asylum to people fleeing persecution in Rwanda as recently as last year, and Rwandan police shot 12 refugees dead who were protesting against poor conditions in the camps there.
- LGBTQI+ refugees at extreme risk, according to widespread evidence from Human Rights Watch, and Rwandan LGBTQ+ organisations on the ground who reported Rwandan authorities rounding up and arbitrarily detaining over a dozen gay and transgender people, sex workers and others before a conference in June 2021. Read more about this via Rainbow Migration.
Why must Jewish people challenge this?
- Jewish people have been forced to seek asylum from persecution many times. We believe that the British public, and the Jewish community, have an important stake in maintaining a domestic protection system for vulnerable minority groups, including refugees and asylum seekers.
- These measures contravene the Refugee Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which were both established as cornerstones of refugee protection following our experience in the Holocaust.
- Jewish people have their own experience of detention, having been interned on the Isle of Man during WW2. We cannot let history repeat itself. Read more about it on our website.
What you can do about it
Write to your MP to stop the Rwanda policy
- Via Detention Action, who challenges the inhumane detention regime in the United Kingdom generally, and has written a template on the Rwanda issue specifically
- Via Rainbow Migration, based particularly on concern for the treatment of LGBTQI+ people and refugees in Rwanda
Donate to the legal fight here, lead by Freedom from Torture, to get the government to back down or have the plans overturned
Challenge the UK’s Hostile Environment more broadly
- Use our Jewish specific template letter – cosponsored by René Cassin and the Union for Jewish Students, to email your MP, which challenges the Nationality and Borders Bill alongside the inadequacies of the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme