”Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45)
On Thursday 14 April 2022, the United Kingdom and Rwanda announced a new Migration and Economic Development Partnership. Through this partnership, asylum-seekers who are already on UK soil can be transferred to Rwanda, where their asylum claims will be processed. Though UK government officials claim that the agreement “fully complies with all national and international law, including the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights”, many reputable human rights organizations as well as senior church leaders in the UK have criticized it.
While the Partnership claims that it will only target those that arrived in the UK “illegally, through safe countries”, critics describe it as an attempt by a wealthy country to outsource migration management to a poorer country in violation of obligations under international refugee law.
The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting online on 30 May-2 June 2022, expresses its concern that this agreement is inconsistent with Christian faith principles, and risks undermining the foundations of the post-World War II international refugee protection system, in particular the right to asylum.
UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs has confirmed that “UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards,” and described the arrangements as shifting asylum responsibilities and evading international obligations that are “contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.” The executive committee concurs with the Assistant High Commissioner that “People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy…. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing”.
The executive committee calls upon the government of the United Kingdom to reconsider this policy, in light of the additional threat it poses to people already fleeing from conflict and oppression.