immigration

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‘Operation Red Meat’ Continues Despite Asylum Crackdown Failures

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/09/2022 - 6:56pm in

Sascha Lavin reports on how the Home Office is pursuing flawed migration policies to retain a base of reactionary support – no matter how ill-conceived

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At the end of August, with the leadership election to replace Boris Johnson in full swing, the then Home Secretary Priti Patel announced plans to ‘fast track’ the removal of Albanian asylum seekers crossing the English Channel.

Her policy would curb the “shameful and absurd” number of Albanian asylum claims, she argued – forgetting that her department was accepting more than half of asylum claims made by Albanians every year, believing them to be genuine and justified.

Playing into the sensationalised claims promoted by the right-wing press, including that 40% of people crossing the Channel to seek asylum in the UK are from Albania – a claim that Byline Times has debunked – Patel said that Albanian asylum seekers would be subject to immediate removal.

This week, the Government was forced to U-turn on Patel’s policy, following a legal letter from charity Care4Calais.

“The Government has performed a major climbdown,” its founder Claire Moseley said. “In doing so, they are accepting that people from Albania have the right to make an asylum claim and have it fairly heard. This is a victory for human decency.”

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This is not the first time in the past 12 months – let alone the past 12 years of Conservative rule – when the Home Office has been forced to concede that it does not have a right to carry out certain immigration policies.

In March, the Home Office’s blanket policy of seizing mobile phones from all migrant people entering the UK by small boats was ruled unlawful by a High Court judge – following a story by Byline Times revealing this practice. Almost 2,000 asylum seekers were unable to contact their family and retrieve critical documentation for their asylum claim because their phones were confiscated by the Home Office for months.

The department has also handed out a record number of compensation payments to people who were wrongfully detained in immigration detention centres in the financial year 2021/22. It paid £12.7 million worth of compensation – a £3.3 million jump from the previous year – to people who were detained for too long or who were too vulnerable or ill to be detained, including victims of torture.

In 2016, it was first revealed that the Home Office may have imposed curfews on asylum seekers unlawfully. Some of these curfews, monitored by an electronic tag, had been in place for years.

It is unclear whether the Government is intentionally imposing harsh policies on asylum seekers or whether it has no intention of actually delivering on many of its schemes – instead merely seeking to appeal to its right-wing base.

Indeed, the Government’s flagship ‘Operation Red Meat’ immigration policy – announced in a bid to save ‘big dog’ Boris Johnson – has failed to relocate a single asylum seeker to Rwanda. The controversial policy is currently on hold until its legality is determined by the courts.

Moreover, a recent report by a Government watchdog has raised further concerns about the legality of the policy, detailing how asylum seekers due to be deported to Rwanda were not given adequate legal access or enough information about the plans while detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre.

But far from deterring the Home Office’s ramped-up 'hostile environment' policies, the legal challenges appear to be playing into the Conservative Party’s ‘culture war’.

Patel’s criticism of “do-gooder... lefty lawyers” – and her replacement Suella Braverman’s description of judges as “wet liberals” – are part of a years-long effort to retain socially conservative voters won over to the Tories during the Brexit campaign.

Despite Johnson’s resignation and Liz Truss now installed in Number 10, the anti-immigration policies continue. During her leadership bid, Truss said she would “pursue more third-country processing partnership schemes” and vowed to consider more “turnaround tactics” for migrant people crossing the Channel.

In the midst of an economic and political crisis stoked by the Government itself, ‘Operation Red Meat’ carries on.

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Italy: Fascism or conservatism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/09/2022 - 9:45pm in

Although the original poster is probably not someone I would wish to follow, I thought the actual video clip he pointed out was interesting. The mainstream media tells us that the next Italian PM is a fascist. Yet she sounds not unlike a member of the UK’s current Conservative government on a bit of an... Read more

Migrants Need Safety, Not Stunts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 4:22am in

DeSantis apparently dispatched the migrants with a videographer to take images of them arriving, entirely unexpectedly, on the upscale island, presumably in an attempt to present the image that Democratic areas can’t handle immigrants (in fact, more than 12% of the island’s 17,000 full-time residents were born in foreign countries, and 22% of the residents are non-white). But the residents of the island greeted the migrants; found beds, food, and medical care; and worked with authorities to move them back to the mainland where there are support services and housing. In the meantime, there are questions about the legality of DeSantis chartering planes to move migrants from state to state....

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Impermanent Resident

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/09/2022 - 11:05pm in

The purgatory of America’s broken visa system.

Cartoon: Ron DeSantis in 'Migrant mixup'

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/09/2022 - 11:00pm in

Support these comics by joining the Sorensen Subscription Service! Also on Patreon.

Follow me on Twitter at @JenSorensen

A Steady-State Approach to Immigration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/09/2022 - 1:02am in
by Brian Czech


“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” The USA has been a nation of immigration. (CC BY-SA 4.0, Mcj1800)

Steady staters live with the reality that economic growth is unsustainable. It can continue for only so long before Nature will no longer support it. Therefore, we call for stabilization—the steady state economy—rather than growth. In particular, population and per capita consumption must be stabilized. Of the two, population is the most fundamental aspect of stabilizing the economy and its ecological footprint.

The population of a country is determined by births, deaths, immigration, and emigration. The focus here is on immigration. Why? Because in North America, western Europe, Australia and a few other regions, most of the population growth in the past few decades has come from immigration, not the “native” growth rate. Furthermore, in these regions the role of immigration in population growth has increased rapidly. Immigration has become a driving concern for citizens, especially conservatives.

There’s another reason to focus on immigration, at least in this venue. Steady staters have something special to offer; namely, a policy framework that makes eminent ecological, economic, and political sense. It just might be the political elixir needed to satisfy the divergent needs of all (or most) involved in the immigration debates.

The Meaning of “Native”

We should never forget who the real natives are. In the USA and much of the Western Hemisphere, Native Americans came first. They and their tribal cultures were largely eliminated by the growth of nations populated by European immigrants. From the perspective of Native Americans, perhaps “invaders” is a better label than “immigrants” for the European colonizers of the second millennium.


The real natives. (CC BY-SA 3.0, Turn685)

A similar acknowledgement pertains to Aborigines in Australia, Maori in New Zealand, Uyghurs in China, Buryats in Russia, and Saami in northern Europe. Standard practice is to refer to the great diversity of such groups with the capitalized “Indigenous peoples,” emphasizing their equality with “Europeans,” “Americans,” “Asians,” and other geocentric groups and their diaspora. Indigenous peoples are the original, bona fide natives.

That said, “native” is also a handy term for the resident citizens of countries today, in contrast with non-citizen occupants, the vast majority of which are immigrants. “Native” can be used as a noun or an adjective: for example, “Chinese natives” (Chinese citizens living in China) and “native French” (French citizens living in France). Heretofore, I use “native” in this demographic/political sense. U.S. natives, then, are American citizens (including Native Americans) living in the USA.

The final proviso is that “native” also implies place of birth. For example, a Polish immigrant attaining citizenship in the USA wouldn’t be considered a U.S. native. However, his or her children, if born in the USA, would be.

Native Birth Rates

Writers tend to use the terms “birth rate” and “fertility rate” interchangeably, while demographic authorities attempt to distinguish the two, as well as versions of each. Here we’ll consider both terms in a manner that should be self-explanatory.


Happy family of two parents and two children. (CC0 1.0, Mircea Iancu)

The birth rate of U.S. natives is down to 1.6 births per woman. That’s significantly lower than the steady-state rate of 2.1 (aka “replacement rate”). The USA is among 65 countries and territories in which birth rates are below replacement rates. South Korea has the lowest birth rate at 0.9.

All European countries have birth rates below the replacement rate. Many of them, especially in Eastern Europe, have birth rates below 1.5.

Meanwhile, numerous countries have birth rates far higher than the replacement rate. African countries have the highest birth rates, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by southwestern Asian countries including Iraq, Tajikistan, and Pakistan.

We can leave it to The Economist and the Institute for Family Studies to argue about whether or not birth rates are too high for the particular times and places of various African countries. The upshot here is that, with all the aforementioned low rates and high rates accounted for, the global birth rate is 2.4. That’s less than half of what it was in 1960, and it’s still declining toward the global replacement rate, which is estimated at 2.3.

Few disagree that a demographic transition has transpired in many countries, lowering fertility to replacement rates (or lower). The verdict is not so clear on whether the demographic transition model will apply to the high-birth countries of Africa and southwest Asia. The global birth rate hangs in the balance.

Population Growth and Immigration in Wealthy Regions

The U.S. population grew at its slowest rate ever—0.1 percent—from 2020-2021. Native births minus deaths, or “natural increase,” was down to 148,000, while “net international migration” (immigration minus emigration) was also relatively low at 247,000. Both of these figures reflect the effects of the COVID pandemic. However, they also reflect a more durable trend, with or without COVID: Immigration—not natural increase—has become the primary cause of U.S. population growth.


(DHS)

For many years, the USA has taken in by far the largest number of immigrants. From 19652015 the U.S. population grew by 131 million (68 percent), including 72 million “linked to immigration” (that is, immigrants per se plus the children and grandchildren thereof). In 2016 alone, U.S. net migration was over a million. Today, over 40 million people in the USA were born in another country, “accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s migrants.”

Germany, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the UK round out the top five countries for receiving immigrants. France, Canada, and Australia are also in the top ten.

The country producing by far the most emigrants is India, followed by Mexico, Russia (a country of frequent migration in both directions), China, and Syria. Pakistan, Ukraine, and the Philippines are also in the top ten. U.S. immigrants come primarily from Mexico, China, India, the Philippines, and El Salvador.

Immigration Politics

Why wouldn’t immigration be one of the hottest political issues of our time, or of any time? We need only recall the Lasswellian definition of politics—who gets what, when, how—to realize that immigration is like a flame under the political stove or a bee in the political bonnet. It’s up there with taxes, inflation, and health care. In fact, it’s hotter than each of those because it’s all about the very first political variable: the who in the “who gets what.” Who gets health care, who gets schooling, who gets job opportunities?

Yes, slick politicians with their neoclassical economists in tow will tell you we can all get more and better health care, schooling, and jobs. We and immigrants alike. In fact, we need more immigrants for more entrepreneurial spirit, cheaper labor, and higher demand for the existing products. And remember, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”


The beauty of diversity. Unfortunately, not all faces are smiling as limits to growth are reached. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Julie Kertesz)

The neoclassical firmament is cracking, though, as pro-growth, conservative politicians have turned against immigration. They may not know it yet, but they’ve bumped up against limits to growth. Immigration is teaching them a lesson, if only they’ll study it.

Immigration is no faceless issue like firearms or fentanyl, either. Immigration is all about faces. It’s about racial, religious, and ethnic diversity, where diversity is synonymous with dissimilarity or difference. That’s what makes immigration inherently challenging, politically, for practically everyone. Rapid diversification can quickly descend into an “us vs. them” mentality unless civility is cultivated and nurtured by all parties.

The USA, Statue of Liberty and all, hasn’t fared well with the challenge. While it has a constitutional government and a bill of rights, it also has a history of racial injustice and ethnic discrimination. The history is still being written, too. In fact, the USA today is viewed worldwide as a country of racial and ethnic discrimination.

Yet the notion that the USA—or any country—should simply open the doors to anyone and everyone is clearly unsustainable, impractical, and unwise. Therefore, centric politicians like Joe Biden and most Democrats opt for nuanced policy frameworks intended to balance the needs of U.S. citizens with a moral approach to international affairs.

In addition to moral nuance, Biden and the Dems find it handy that an army of neoclassical economists will back them up on purely material terms as well, touting immigration as the cure to a flagging rate of GDP growth. “Research suggests,” we find at JoeBiden.com, “that ‘the total annual contribution of foreign-born workers is roughly $2 trillion’,” with the Biden campaign quoting economists from the Hamilton Project, whose motto is “Advancing Opportunity, Prosperity, and Growth.”

The Steady-State Solution to the Immigration Challenge

For steady staters, there’s no way around it: Population stabilization is as fundamental to a steady state economy as a horse is to a horse race. Yet population stabilization can’t come at the expense of civil rights or impoverished masses, either. Not morally, and not politically.

Given these conditions, the only feasible solution to the immigration challenge comes into focus. The steady-state nation must tighten its borders to the degree that population is stabilized, but only while transitioning to a steady state economy. At the same time, it must lend a helping hand to impoverished regions, essentially in lieu of welcoming the emigrants thereof. In many cases, the helping hand would amount to a better deal for the impoverished, too, for how many among them would really want to leave their homeland, if only conditions were better there?

In contrast, consider what would happen if a big, wealthy country tightened its borders while striving for GDP growth. Recall that all wealthy countries at this point in history have stable, stabilizing, or even declining native populations. For them, tightened borders with a growing GDP would amount to a growing per capita consumption, even while their ecological footprints are already far into overshoot. Locking out impoverished emigrants would make them look like—and be like—pigs at the global trough, especially as wealthy nations lean heavily upon poorer countries for natural resources.

If you’re a pig at the global trough, how good can that be for national security?


Put yourself in her submerged shoes. Should wealthy countries not help? (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Oxfam International)

Unfortunately, we already have an idea, because with Donald Trump as president, the USA did tighten its borders substantially, even before the COVID pandemic. Trump’s draconian immigration policies were significant factors in the plummeting global approval of the USA during his presidency. Trump’s handling of immigration became a how-to manual for marching toward pariah status in international affairs.

Now let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s say the president was more like a Jimmy Carter, with a Congress wise enough to pass the Full and Sustainable Employment Act (aka Full Seas Act) calling for the transition to a steady state economy in the USA and steady statesmanship in international diplomacy. I chose Carter for this experiment because of his well-known conservation ethic and his honest, humble demeanor. Those traits seem like a natural fit for steady-state economics, domestically and in international affairs.

Imagine this 21st century “President Carter” announcing to the world—perhaps at the UN General Assembly, a G7 meeting, or a climate summit—that the USA, recognizing limits to growth, was determined to establish a steady state economy with stabilized population and GDP. Imagine him (or her) apprising the international community, “We have to. It’s the smart thing to do, it’s the only sustainable option, and now, with the Full Seas Act, it’s the law.”

Next, the president would acknowledge how this transition would affect our friends around the world. “Establishing a steady state economy means we don’t have any choice but to keep our immigration numbers at a level congruent with a non-growing, stable population. We realize, too, that emigrants in many cases are attempting to leave impoverished regions for a better life, and we want to help them. Our help, though, must be less in the form of an open border, and more in the form of improving conditions in the homelands of all who suffer from low standards of living and limited opportunities.”

The Full Seas Act would indeed authorize an Aid-In-Place Fund with mandatory minimum appropriations calculated to assist, at a reasonable level, the same number of people that otherwise would have legally emigrated to the USA (based upon a reference period). This aid, administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, would take the form of housing, health care, schooling, job training, and other living standards on a case-by-case basis. In other words, aid packages would be tailored to the specific challenges of the region in question. In cases of natural disaster and ecological deterioration due to global heating, such as sea-level rise, the Aid-In-Place Fund would assist (in concert with the U.S. Foreign Service) with relocation to ecologically and culturally similar regions.

Given a 21st century President Carter, the Full Seas Act, and the Aid-In-Place Fund, imagine how the people of the world would view the USA. Not like a pig at a trough, but more like a mature, stable, helping friend. A friend to the world, leading the way with a sane, sustainable immigration policy.

Brian Czech, Executive Director of CASSEBrian Czech is CASSE’s Executive Director.

 

 

The post A Steady-State Approach to Immigration appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

The UK-Rwanda Partnership: A Timeline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/09/2022 - 6:10pm in

The controversial Rwanda scheme has rarely been out of the headlines. The Byline Intelligence Team, in partnership with the Action On Armed Violence charity, takes a look at the story so far

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It’s been five months since news of the plan to deport some people seeking asylum who arrive in the UK via the Channel to Rwanda – five months of fear and fury, legal challenges, newspaper smears, and misreporting of the facts. 

But ever since rumours were heard in April that a plan was in the works to carry out this “offshore processing”, not a single person has actually been deported to the east African country – with some expressing doubts that they ever will be.

The Byline Intelligence Team, with the support of the charity Action On Armed Violence (AOAV), put together a timeline of the policy, the international response, and the uncertainty of its future. 

The Beginning of the Policy

On 5 April 2022, news broke that then Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to announce a new immigration plan to tackle Channel crossings, which were set to reach record levels this year. The Times reported that the plan would involve the deportation of migrant people to Rwanda. Nine days later this was confirmed

Initially, those reporting on the story assumed the policy was to mirror that of Australia – offshore processing where migrant people would be held in detention in Rwanda while their asylum applications were being processed, before returning to the UK.

However, Byline Times journalists quickly realised that this was not the case. Studying the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between the UK and Rwandan Governments showed that, rather than offshore processing, the policy plan was for people to be deported to Rwanda where they could then claim asylum and live as a refugee. There would be no route back to the UK. 

The policy, of course, began before the announcement. As early as September 2020, the Government had been drawing up a shortlist of countries to agree a deal with on migration. Last February, a list of seven had been agreed, with Rwanda failing to make the cut.

The following month, Downing Street’s policy unit pushed the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to "look again at the viability of" Rwanda and other countries which had not made the final shortlist. The FCDO responded: "We had previously ruled all these countries out on political and/or legal grounds. We see little reason to change that.”

By April this year, however, the deal with Rwanda was signed and announced.

Opposition Mounts

Almost immediately, migrant and refugee rights activists and agencies expressed their concern about the policy of outsourcing the UK asylum system to Rwanda. 

The United Nations Refugee Agency – the UNHCR – released a statement on the day the MOU was published, saying it had not been consulted on the negotiations and stating its opposition to “arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards”.

In Rwanda, Leader of the Opposition Victoire Ingabire openly criticised the plan, saying that her country should not be dealing with a British migration backlog, when the population faces other important issues.

Meanwhile, letters from Home Office Under Secretary Matthew Rycroft – reported by the Guardian three days after the announcement – expressed reservations that the policy would not be value for money for the UK taxpayer, due to the uncertain evidence that it would act as a deterrent to people crossing the Channel. 

Humanitarian opposition came from the very top in the UK, with both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prince of Wales weighing in. In June, during a visit to Rwanda, Prince Charles privately remarked that the Government's approach to immigration was “appalling”. 

Opposition MPs in the UK took to the airwaves and the House of Commons to air their criticisms of the policy.

On 15 June 2022, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called the scheme “a shambles and shameful”, while raising concerns about the human rights of refugees in Rwanda. She was joined by her colleague Stephen Kinnock, Shadow Immigration Minister, who described the plan as “unworkable” on Sky News.

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Will It Work?

Much of the criticism that followed the MOU’s announcement focused on the human rights implications of the policy, not least at Byline Times, where we looked at the impact on LGBTIQ refugees and the wider human rights picture in the country. 

But the policy also faced immediate criticism as to whether it would be effective. 

On 2 May, a survey conducted by the NGO Care4Calais revealed that the scheme’s announcement had done little to dissuade people from making the dangerous journey to the French Coast and then across the Channel.

Migrant people the group spoke to said they would still try to come to the UK despite the threat that arriving via the Channel could lead to them being deported to Rwanda. That day, 250 people attempted the crossing – by August it hit 1,300 in one day.

Then, news broke that Rwanda would only accept around 300 migrant people a year – despite Johnson earlier boasting that tens of thousands would be sent to east Africa due there being no cap on the numbers which could be deported. 

The Home Office has denied there is a cap on the number of migrant people who could be deported.

The Planned Flight

Criticism turned into legal challenges when the Home Office announced the first deportation flight would take place on 14 June. 

The announcement came a month before, on 15 May, with Boris Johnson saying that 50 migrant people would be deported, with those selected for the flight given seven to 14 days to lodge objections. Johnson said the Government would “dig in for the fight” and oppose “leftie lawyers” seeking to prevent the flight from taking off.  

The PCS Union was joined by Detention Action, Care4Calais and four people seeking asylum in a legal challenge that demanded a last-minute injunction to prevent the flight from taking off.

Three days before the flight was set to take off, the High Court found in favour of the Government, but this was reversed by the European Court of Human Rights at 7.30pm on 14 June. By this point, those who were going to be deported had already been taken onto the plane. They were returned to detention and eventually all the removal orders were scrapped. 

On 11 June, the Guardian reported that the Home Office had misled people seeking asylum about its Rwanda plan. They had informed migrant people that the UNHCR was involved in the scheme – something which UNHCR lawyers said was “inaccurate”. 

A month earlier, the Byline Intelligence Team had reported how Freedom of Information requests had cast doubts over then Home Secretary Priti Patel’s claims that the European Union had resettled migrant people in Rwanda. 

What Next?

On 19 July this year, court papers revealed that the FCDO had voiced its opposition to the Rwanda scheme on human rights grounds. 

Britain’s High Commissioner had warned against removing migrant people due to concerns that Rwanda had a record of coercing refugees into the army. The court papers also highlighted how Rwanda was initially excluded from the shortlist of countries selected for a migrant deportation agreement, due to its poor human rights record. 

Home Office documents revealed how, the day before the MOU was signed, the policy was described as unenforceable and prone to fraud – specifically in reference to the £120 million invested into Rwanda as part of the deal.

But, despite opposition from within the Government, the Opposition, people in Rwanda, the UN and from migrant rights groups, the policy marches on. New Prime Minister Liz Truss has said she is committed to continuing and even expanding the scheme.

A day after her hardline approach was cheered by the Conservative Party membership, on 25 July, MPs from Parliament’s Human Rights Committee wrote a letter to Patel stating the committee is “unconvinced that the Rwanda plan is an appropriate, or indeed effective way to achieve the Government’s aims”. 

Now, a second flight is planned for September, although a date is yet to be determined.

A Government spokesperson said: "Our thorough assessments found that Rwanda is fundamentally a safe and secure country with a strong track record of supporting asylum seekers.”

Iain Overton, head of the Byline Intelligence Team, is also executive director of the Action On Armed Violence (AOAV) charity.

This article was updated at 12.15pm on 8 September to include a response from the Home Office.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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How Rwanda’s Stifling of the Press Prevents Proper Accountability for Asylum Scheme

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/09/2022 - 6:00pm in

After Iain Overton, head of the Byline Intelligence Team, was denied a journalist visa to report on violence against refugees in Rwanda, he investigated press repression in the country

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Last June, the then Home Office Secretary Priti Patel, tweeted that “the safety of journalists is fundamental to our democracy”. In 2018, she had even condemned how press freedom had been stifled and “journalists criminalised” for reporting on human rights abuses in Myanmar.

But come April 2022, Patel took to Twitter to announce something that has been less palatable to human rights defenders. She launched “a world-leading new partnership with Rwanda” designed to “deter dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK; give migrants the chance of a new life; (and) set a new standard on asylum and resettlement”. 

Known as the 'Rwanda Scheme', the UK and Rwanda Migration and Economic Partnership will see “tens of thousands” of people seeking asylum in the UK being sent to a country some 10,000 km away. Patel said the UK could do so because Rwanda is a safe country.

But is this true? Is Rwanda a safe country, both for refugees and for journalists?

After I, head of the Byline Intelligence Team, was refused journalist accreditation in Rwanda to report on potential human rights abuses on refugees, this newspaper set out to examine, not just the flawed evidence of the Home Office’s own claims that the land-locked African nation is a safe haven, but to what degree it protects the safety of journalists that Britain’s Home Secretary held so dear. 

The Byline Intelligence Team aimed to uncover how the Rwandan Government’s approach to the Fourth Estate might impact the future capacity of journalists to investigate the treatment of refugees sent there from Britain.

Rwanda: A Stifled Press

It was clear, from the start, that there were concerns.

Rwanda ranks 136 out of 180 on the Reports Without Borders (RSF) 2022 edition World Press Freedom Index. This is worse than the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Mali and South Sudan: five of the 31 countries listed in 2021 as ‘Human Rights Concern’ by the UK Government.

RSF said of the country’s press: “Investigative journalism is not widely practised, and journalists who have tried to circulate sensitive or critical content via YouTube or other online outlets in recent years have received harsh (prison) sentences.”

Journalists in Rwanda have themselves been criminalised. “Arbitrary arrests and detention have increased in recent years,” RSF said. “Journalists working online are also being persecuted.” Two journalists are currently in prison in Rwanda.

Writers and editors are also under fire. Innocent Bahati, a popular Rwandan poet, has been missing since last February, according to PEN International. His disappearance is thought to be linked to his poetry condemning the Government’s inaction on poverty and corruption.

Human Rights Watch, in its 2022 report, stated that “Christopher Kayumba, the former editor of The Chronicles newspaper, established a new political party, the Rwandese Platform for Democracy (RDP), in March... Shortly afterwards, allegations of rape and “sexual misconduct” were brought against him, and he was arrested in September (2021)”.

Rwanda has also been accused of not meeting international standards of free speech, with Human Rights Watch warning in March of a wave of arrests of Rwandan journalists and commentators.

Lewis Mudge, the NGO’s Central Africa director, told reporters that “judicial authorities in Rwanda, lacking the independence to stand up and protect free speech in accordance with international law, have unjustly convicted and jailed people based on their protected speech and opinions”.

Such concerns were reflected in the European Parliament’s decision to adopt two resolutions in February and October 2021, condemning Rwanda’s broader human rights record. Despite this, the British Home Office is adamant that the nation is “safe and secure”.

Just how safe and secure, though, is not easy to establish when journalists are under threat. 

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How Can Foreign Correspondents Find Out?

I am one of many journalists who has been refused access to report in Rwanda.

In June, Benedict Moran, a Canadian journalist who has covered Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s alleged involvement in war crimes, was denied a journalist visa. Anjan Sundaram, author of Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship – a book about the destruction of free speech in Rwanda – was also refused one. Sundaram's book lists 60 journalists physically assaulted, arrested, killed or forced to flee after criticising Rwanda's Government between 1995 and 2014. In the same month,  Vinícius Assis, a Brazilian journalist, paid US$100 for media accreditation and spent one month in Kigali but was not given accreditation.

In April, it was reported that journalists from the Guardian, Financial Times and Mirror were ‘excluded’ from Patel’s trip to Rwanda at the time. This included the Guardian’s home affairs editor, Rajeev Syal, who did later accompany Boris Johnson to Kigali for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

When access is given, there appears to be limitations on what can be reported. Last month, Guardian journalist Sarah Johnson described how on her accredited trip to cover the plight of refugees in Rwanda she was “not allowed to talk to any refugees, or take any photos of refugees”. She was also told she could be arrested for entering a medical appointment or someone’s home, and permission from the camp manager for her to speak to refugees was denied.

Domestic Journalists Silenced

There appears to be a persistent attempt to suppress domestic voices in Rwanda.

In June, the Rwandan journalist Prudence Nsengumukiza was to be given asylum in Belgium, telling BBC News that he was at risk of being “hunted down by agents of President Paul Kagame's Government”.  A Rwandan news-site with reported links to the Rwandan Government accused him of "cowardice", warning “nobody betrays Rwanda and gets lucky".

In November 2020, Rwandan YouTuber Dieudonne Niyonsenga, was sentenced to seven years in jail after being found guilty of forgery and impersonation. A few weeks before, fellow-national Yvonne Idamange was jailed for 15 years for “inciting violence” online. YouTuber John Williams Ntwali has also been arrested multiple times during his two-decade career as a journalist there.

The censure appears to spread beyond borders. Congolese journalist Dimanche Kamate was arrested and detained last month over his broadcast about a recently leaked United Nations report that alleged Rwanda’s military support for M23, a rebel group fighting the Congolese Government.

Websites have also been set up by Rwandan exiles cataloguing the abuses against journalists in the landlocked country. Verifying these claims, however, without access to the country where they were reportedly perpetrated, is fraught with difficulties.

Human Rights Reporters And Lawyers

The attempt to prevent fair and balanced review of potential abuses goes beyond just journalism. According to Human Rights Watch, "Rwandan law allows for overly broad and vague limitations on free speech" which pave the way for the "abusive prosecution" of Government critics.

Unsurprisingly, over the years human rights researchers have fallen victim to the heavy-handed policy. Carina Tertsakian, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher in Rwanda, was told in 2010 by immigration officials that she would not be granted a work visa, stifling the ability of rights organisations to monitor the country.

The lawyers of Paul Rusesabagina, the man depicted as a hero in Hotel Rwanda a 2004 film about Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, said they had been stopped from seeing their client, who lives under detention in the central African country. Rusesabagina was arrested in August 2020 and charged with terrorism. He was sentenced to 25 years after what rights groups branded an unfair trial.

Dissent in Rwanda, it seems, is simply not tolerated. 

And sometimes that intolerance becomes deadly. In 2014, it was reported that Col Patrick Karegeya, a former Rwandan intelligence chief, had been murdered. Karegeya had been advising South African and Tanzanian intelligence as they prepared to send troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo and battle the Rwandan-backed rebel group M23. BBC Newsnight reported how “his friends and family are in no doubt that he was murdered on the orders of the Rwandan President”.

The unreported attempts of the Kagame regime to silence critics and opponents could be far, far higher. But any potential human rights abuses – like the 13 refugees killed in 2018 by Rwandan police forces – can never be truly told because of the draconian approach to journalists and the threat to their safety.

A threat that the Home Secretary has been so vocal in condemning elsewhere, but not in the very country she wants to send refugees to.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Exclusive Investigation Reveals 13th Refugee Shot in Rwanda in 2018

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/09/2022 - 6:10pm in

The Byline Intelligence Team has uncovered the killing of an 13th Congolese refugee in 2018 – undermining Government claims that 'no similar incidences had occurred' since the shooting of 12 people earlier that year

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A 13th Congolese refugee was killed in clashes between refugees and Rwandan state authorities in 2018, an exclusive investigation by the Byline Intelligence Team has revealed. 

Elysee Kanyandekwe was shot during clashes on 29 April – three months after 12 refugees from the Kiziba camp were killed when the Rwandan Army used live rounds against protestors outside the UN refugee agency in the Karongi district, on 20 February 2018. 

A child was also injured during the April events, after being hit in the head by a teargas canister. The police had fired teargas at the protestors. Local news reports referred to “violent refugees”. 

The massacre of 12 refugees in February 2018 has been used as evidence by migrant rights campaigners of human rights abuses against vulnerable communities in Rwanda. 

Now, the discovery of a 13th death further undermines the claims from the Home Office that Rwanda is a safe and secure country to deport migrant people who arrive in the UK via irregular routes, such as Channel crossings or in lorries. 

The UK and Rwanda Governments have signed an Economic and Migration Partnership which would mean that people who arrive to the UK via the Channel will be deported to the east African country, where they will then be expected to claim asylum. If they are granted asylum, they can remain in Rwanda. If not, they can apply for another form of leave to remain, or be removed. They will not have the right to return to or remain in the UK. 

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In the UK Government’s Country Information and Policy Notes, which outlines the human rights situation in Rwanda, it acknowledges the violence that led to 12 deaths during the Kiziba refugee protests on 20 February 2018. The violence also caused two miscarriages and dozens of injuries.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 refugees walked for two hours on 20 February 2018 from the Kiziba camp to protest outside the offices of the UN refugee agency after food supplies to the Kiziba camp had been reduced. Some women had been forced into prostitution to make ends meet.

However, the CIPN notes that “the exact circumstances of that incident are unclear” before writing “sources... note that no further similar incidents have occurred since”.

The Byline Intelligence Team's investigation reveals otherwise. Having analysed local news reports about the Kiziba camp, it has been learned that, on 30 April 2018, a subsequent protest was met with similar violence – leading to death of Elysee Kanyandekwe. It is believed that this is the first time that his death has been reported in the UK press.  

It is understood that the death occurred after a stand-off between Rwandan National Police and a crowd of refugee youths. Kanyandekwe was injured and taken to hospital, where he died from his injuries. A child was hit by a teargas canister and 23 people were arrested

A witness to the April 2018 violence, Shyaka Elie, told Rwandan news media in the days following the killing: "This is unbelievable to see refugees being harassed like this. As refugees we also used stones, but we were trying to defend ourselves. We are Congolese and we want to go back home even if it is not safe there, we are not safe here either."

Elie described how Kanyandekwe was shot as he "tried to fight for the leader” of the refugee executive committee that ran the camp before the authorities disbanded it on accusations of inciting violence.

“It is disturbing but unfortunately unsurprising that yet more evidence has emerged demonstrating that this Government has not properly assessed the risks which refugees face in Rwanda,” Matilda Bryce, asylum policy and campaigns manager at Freedom from Torture, told Byline Times

A month earlier, in March 2018, Rwandan police arrested 33 Burundi refugees accused of inciting others to reject biometric registration at the Gashora Transit Centre, the Nyarushishi Transit Centre and the Muyira Transit Centre.

Speaking in 2019, Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch said: “There can be no justification for shooting at unarmed protesters. The Rwandan Government is trampling on the graves of the victims by refusing to acknowledge how many people were actually killed or holding those responsible to account.”

The UK Government was warned last February by the High Commissioner to Rwanda that its Government has recruited refugees to join armed conflicts in neighbouring countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

The Byline Intelligence Team asked the Home Office to comment on the death of Kanyandekwe. A spokesperson said that the Government’s “own assessment of Rwanda has found it is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers”. They said it would not be commenting on the discovery that 13 refugees were killed during violence in 2018.

This response – combined with the refusal of the Rwandan Government to grant Iain Overton, who heads the Byline Intelligence Team, a journalism visa – raises serious concerns about the human rights assessment of the country, and how journalists can hold both governments to account for alleged human rights abuses.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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The Human Rights Gaps in the Rwanda Scheme Revealed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/09/2022 - 6:00pm in

A three-part investigation by the Byline Intelligence Team exposes the human rights concerns over the Rwanda scheme – including repression of journalists and the killing of a 13th Congolese refugee in 2018

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A three-part investigation by the Byline Intelligence Team into the UK Government’s Economic and Migration Partnership with Rwanda raises concerns about the human rights and future safety of those migrant people facing deportation to east Africa.

The investigation comes as the PCS Union, Care4Calais and Detention Action have initiated a judicial review of the Government's ‘Rwanda scheme’, which was introduced earlier this year by outgoing Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The Byline Intelligence Team has pored over Home Office documents, local Rwandan news reports, Freedom of Information requests and parliamentary research to build a full picture of the policy, its risks, and its impact on migrant people’s human rights. 

Iain Overton, who leads the team, attempted to report from Rwanda about human rights concerns in the country, however he was denied a journalist visa. This raised questions about transparency and scrutiny of the policy, and the ability of the press to hold both the UK and the Rwanda Governments to account. 

The investigation has uncovered:

  • A killing of a 13th refugee and the injuring of a child refugee by Rwandan police during protests at Kiziba camp in 2018, previously unreported by the UK press
  • A lack of clarity or certainty in Home Office assessments of human rights in the country
  • How a monitoring committee designed to oversee treatment of deportees was not established before the first flight was due to take off and may not be ready for the next flight
  • How enacting the Rwanda scheme as a Memorandum of Understanding, instead of another legal mechanism such as a treaty, means that there is nothing the UK Government can legally do if people deported to Rwanda are mistreated

The investigation's most shocking finding is the death of Elysee Kanyandekwe, who died following violent clashes between refugee protestors and state authorities on 30 April 2018. Kanyandekwe was a Congolese refugee living in the Kiziba camp, western Rwanda. 

Kanyandekwe’s death followed the killing of 12 refugees on 20 February 2018 – but the the Byline Intelligence Team understands that this is the first time his death has been reported in the UK press. His death is not noted in the Home Office’s human rights assessment of Rwanda, which acknowledges the February violence but states “no further similar incidents have occurred since” then. 

“It is disturbing but unfortunately unsurprising that yet more evidence has emerged demonstrating that this Government has not properly assessed the risks which refugees face in Rwanda,” Matilda Bryce, asylum policy and campaigns manager at Freedom from Torture, told Byline Times. The NGO is providing expert evidence to the judicial review.

“As evidence submitted by Freedom from Torture to the High Court shows, there are many inadequacies within the Rwanda policy which will put vulnerable individuals, including torture survivors, at risk of harm.”

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Scrutiny and Rights

Since the announcement of the Rwanda scheme in April, critics have observed that the decision to use a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), rather than an international treaty, means that Parliament was unable to scrutinise the policy. 

This raises concerns about transparency – the UK has undertaken a huge shift in its migration policy that steps outside international norms when it comes to processing people seeking asylum and did so without a single reading or vote. 

But there are also bigger implications to migrant people’s human rights.

Unlike a treaty, an MOU is not legally binding and does not confer rights or obligations. This means that, should the Rwandan Government not stand by the commitments made in the agreement – for example by mistreating people when they arrive in Rwanda or by not providing access to a fair immigration process – legally there is nothing the UK can do to put things right.

According to the Public Law Project, “there is no dispute resolution process and no recourse to international courts”. 

The Home Office told Byline Times that, while not legally binding, the MOU “gives the assurances we need that the arrangement will be operated in line with our international obligations and in a manner which ensures the safety of those relocated”.

During a Home Affairs Committee evidence session in May, SNP MP Joanna Cherry raised the legal limitations of an MOU. She asked the Government to explain what would happen if a relocated person had their human rights breached on arrival in Rwanda, and what remedies the UK Government had put in place to ensure they would get the support they needed. 

In response, she was told that “there is no systematic breach of human rights in Rwanda” – with a follow-up letter stating that “anyone who wished to seek a remedy for a potential breach of their human rights would do so through the legal and criminal justice system in Rwanda” – i.e. there is no recourse to the UK legal system.

While it may be true that there is no “systematic” breach of human rights in Rwanda, the country has been criticised for its human rights record.

In its Country Information on General Human Rights in Rwanda, the Government notes that the east African nation is ranked 45 out of 49 on freedom of association; 44 out of 49 on political liberties, and 47 out of 49 on physical violence, which measures the extent to which physical integrity – freedom from political killings and torture by the Government – is respected. Rwanda’s Government has not signed up to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

In March, Human Rights Watch said that Rwanda did not match up to international standards of free speech and warned of a wave of arrests of Rwandan journalists and commentators.

According to evidence submitted during the judicial review, officials continued to advice the Government last May against a partnership with Rwanda, with an internal assessment the following month stating that human rights violations, including torture, killings, kidnap, were "common". However, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel continued to express an interest in Rwanda, with the former Prime Minister expressing frustration at the lack of progress.

Cherry was told by the Home Office that “if there were concerns about the partnership, it would be for ministers to decide appropriately, at that time, what their response would need to be".

This displays a worrying refusal to acknowledge how those issues arose when Israel followed a similar policy plan of deporting migrant people to Rwanda. 

Various sources told the Home Office about human rights issues experienced by migrant people transported from Israel to Rwanda, including how they were held in “prison-like” conditions in a hotel; faced failings from the asylum system; ended up undocumented with no legal status; and were even coerced into paying smugglers to get them out of Rwanda. 

The Home Office told Byline Times that “it’s important to note that our model is considerably different from the Israeli model”.

The charity Asylos described how testimonies about Israel’s model were omitted from the final Country Policy and Information Note: Rwanda, asylum system.

Of further concern is the news that the monitoring committee – a body designed to oversee the treatment of migrant people once they arrive in Rwanda – has only just been set up, nearly five months after the MOU was signed. This means that, had the planned deportation flight on 14 June gone ahead, the mechanism to monitor the safety and security of deportees was not in place. 

The monitoring committee is able to make unannounced visits to accommodation, asylum processing centres and have “unfettered access” to relevant locations, people and documents. It would be responsible for monitoring reception arrangements, accommodation, asylum processing arrangements and assurances to treatment post asylum decision. 

Members of the monitoring committee include Harish Salve QC; former Brexit Party candidate Karina Kielbinska; Danish immigration expert Morten Lisborg; and Australian immigration expert Alexander Downer. The latter negotiated Canberra’s system of off-shoring people seeking asylum on Manus and Nauru islands – a policy that was much-criticised by human rights groups. Denmark has signalled its interest in following the UK’s lead and sending migrant people to Rwanda. 

Money and Transparency

The failure to account for additional incidents of police violence against refugees – such as the killing of Elysee Kanyandekwe – is one of many gaps in the Home Office’s assessment of Rwanda’s suitability as a place to deport people seeking asylum.

Other examples include it saying that it is “unclear how often" the Rwanda Government does not meet the time-frames of its asylum process; that the extent of anti-LGBTIQ discrimination is “unclear”; and that it is “unclear how often” appeal routes for failed asylum claims are exercised.

Another set of questions relates to the funding and costs of the scheme.

The UK has provided £120 million funding to Rwanda which, according to a Home Office fact sheet, is the “initial investment” that forms “part of a new Economic Transformation and Integration Fund”. 

Alongside this wider development investment, the UK Government “is also funding the processing costs for each person relocated, such as caseworkers, legal advice, translators, accommodation, food, healthcare, and for those granted protection, a comprehensive integration package to help them put down roots and start a new life”.

The amount of funding per deportee is not specified – with the Home Office informing Byline Times that “every person’s needs are different, but we anticipate the amount would be comparable to processing costs incurred in the UK”. 

A Freedom of Information request, by human rights lawyer Shoaib Khan, into the costs of the cancelled deportation flight on 14 June, was refused. A request sent by the Byline Intelligence Team, asking how much the policy would cost, was also refused – on the grounds that sharing this information “would be likely to prejudice the interests of the United Kingdom abroad”.

A Home Office Spokesperson said: “Our own assessment of Rwanda has found it is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers. As part of our partnership, the UK is providing an initial investment of £120 million to boost the development of Rwanda, including jobs, skills and opportunities to benefit both migrants and host communities.”

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