The Home Secretary plans on introducing new laws that would allow the government to send asylum seekers offshores for processing. However, if Australia is any indication of what this policy could be for asylum seekers coming to the UK, the outlook is grim. In Australia the policy has faced global condemnation from governments, legal groups, United Nations bodies, and human rights NGOs alike for human rights abuses and defying international law.
This is not to say that the UK’s current immigration policies are free from problems. Domestic immigration facilities over the years have been harshly criticised for abuse and poor treatment of immigrants. Many activists are pushing for their closure.
However, currently some UK politicians are looking towards Rwanda for a shared immigration centre with Denmark in order to circumvent their obligations towards asylum seekers coming to the UK. This is not the first time that the UK has attempted to move their immigration troubles offshores. In September, Priti Patel asked officials to look into the viability of sending asylum seekers to remote islands. However, after severe public backlash, the idea was scrapped. Since the UK left the European Union, Westminster can no longer transfer some asylum seekers to other European countries as part of the bloc’s Dublin regulation. Now that the relief from the slowed migration flows due to the pandemic has ceased, there is increased pressure to come up with a plan.
This shift back to the offshore immigration centres comes after Denmark passed a similar law giving precedence to this policy in Europe. This “tough on immigration” policy, however, just opens the door for even more human rights violations as exampled with Australia’s policy that went into effect in 2012, holding refugees in neighbouring islands Papua New Guinea and Nauru. At least 12 people have died in Australia’s detention network abroad and thousands have endured a widespread mental illness and self-harm due to the poor conditions. In addition, the Australian government was ordered to pay over $70m in compensation to nearly 2,000 detainees. What may have been an effort to save money could end up costing the UK even more. The cost, however, could not only be monetary but also in reputation as happened in Australia. The policies in Australia have “damaged the reputation and credit and political culture of Australia.” Refugees are not the only ones to be hurt by the seemingly blatant disregard for human rights, democracy is damaged along with the value and principles of your country.
Although the UK cannot legally create a detention centre with the same scheme as Australia, any shadow of the Australian system likely doesn’t bode well for the human rights of the asylum seekers. This policy would likely breach international laws, be exorbitantly expensive, and not deter anyone, as the case in Australia.
When trying to find a system that deals with refugees, one that doesn’t fully take into account the humanity of and the risks to the refugees, and the human dignity of the citizens within the country is insufficient. Moving asylum seekers abroad only adds another barrier for them to reach much needed resources like ours.
JAN Trust works hard to empower asylum seekers, migrants and other marginalised groups. Our services provide advice and guidance on issues like asylum seekers and refugee status. For more information on what we do at JAN Trust, have a look on our website.