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UK to send first batch of asylum seekers to Rwanda

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought to shore by Border Force officers at the Port of Dover in Kent, England September 16, 2019   -  
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Gareth Fuller/AP -

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom will send the first batch of asylum seekers to Rwanda in the coming days, a month after a deal to resettle illegal migrants was signed with the east African country.

Under the scheme for which Kigali will be paid $160 million, asylum seekers arriving on small boats across the English channel from France will immediately be transferred to Rwanda, where their paperwork will be processed.

In an interview with a local daily, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that 50 people who had arrived illegally in the country after crossing the Channel had been informed that they would be flown to Rwanda.

Those affected have between 7 and 14 days to file objections.

The policy targets migrants who entered the country after January 1, 2022.

The deal has been the subject of intense criticism by charities, refugee rights organisations and activists.

Activists say the arrangement breaches the 1951 Refugee Convention, a United Nations treaty that stipulates that signatory states must not impose penalties on asylum seekers and refugees 'on account of their illegal entry or stay'. Others have pointed To Rwanda's own questionable human rights record.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has urged the UK and Rwanda to reconsider the arrangement.

Both London and Kigali have defended the deal as a humane solution to global migration challenges. They also say that the arrangement is necessary to deter human trafficking.

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