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UK Home Secretary James Cleverly visits Rwanda in an effort to revive asylum plan

UK Home Secretary James Cleverly visits Rwanda in an effort to revive asylum plan
Home Secretary James Cleverly shakes hands with the British High Commissioner ...   -  
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Ben Birchall/PA


British Home Secretary James Cleverly arrived in Rwanda on Tuesday to revive a plan to send asylum-seekers to the East African country that U.K. courts have blocked.

The U.K. government said Cleverly will meet his Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta, to sign a new treaty and discuss the next steps for the troubled "migration and economic development partnership."

"Rwanda cares deeply about the rights of refugees, and I look forward to meeting with counterparts to sign this agreement and further discuss how we work together to tackle the global challenge of illegal migration," Cleverly said.

The Rwanda plan is central to the Conservative government's self-imposed goal of stopping unauthorized asylum-seekers arriving on small boats across the English Channel.

Britain and Rwanda struck a deal in April 2022 for some migrants who cross the Channel to be sent to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed and, if successful, they would stay. The U.K. government argues that the deportations will discourage others from making the risky sea crossing and break the business model of people-smuggling gangs.

Critics say it is both unethical and unworkable to send migrants to a country 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) away, with no chance of ever settling in the U.K.

Britain has already paid Rwanda at least 140 million pounds ($177 million) under the agreement, but no one has yet been sent there amid legal challenges.

Last month the U.K. Supreme Court ruled the plan was illegal because Rwanda is not a safe country for refugees. Britain's top court said asylum-seekers faced "a real risk of ill-treatment" and could be returned by Rwanda to the home countries they had fled.

For years, human rights groups have accused Rwanda's government of cracking down on perceived dissent and keeping tight control on many aspects of life, from jailing critics to keeping homeless people off the streets of Kigali. The government denies it.

The U.K. government responded by saying it would strike a new treaty with Rwanda to address the court's concerns — including a block on Rwanda sending migrants home — and then pass a law declaring Rwanda a safe destination.

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