Politics Opinion

Inspired by Australia's inhumanity, UK plans to send refugees to Rwanda

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Cartoon by Mark David/@markdavidcartoons

As broadcast on the BBC 's World Service on 15 April, the policy of asylum seeker deterrence is just about moving a problem elsewhere. 

By creating a policy whereby asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in UK territory without a visa are sent to Rwanda does nothing to address the global consequences of conflict. It simply moves the problem to a developing nation.

And what of the needs of Rwandans?

"Out of sight, out of mind" strategies have (in Australia's experience) led to astounding abuse and massive national shame.

On Manus and Nauru, we had deaths by medical neglect, suicide by self-immolation, murders by locals who rioted against the incomers, raids, shootings and bashing of detainees. Many people have been permanently broken. 

On Good Friday 2017, five years ago to the day, drunk local soldiers (who had lost a sports match) fired on the Manus Refugee compound with guns. There was no reason except that the refugees were foreign and unwelcome. 

There were allegations of rape committed by guards and locals. We had machete attacks. Local police used iron bars to bash men to end a 28-day siege.

Little Nauruan babies were born to women with female genital mutilation.

Asylum seekers and refugees have suffered malaria, medical neglect, resignation syndrome and been handed substantial amounts of psychiatric medication given out. They endured filthy hospitals with unused x-ray machines left outside in boxes while cats strolled through filthy wards. 

Many detainees had no air con. Mould grew everywhere. They were given shocking meals with betel nuts and teeth spat into them. They had shortages of every kind of help and huge administrative gaps. The delays in refugee status determination increased.

Guards were racist and vulnerable persons experienced slow bureaucracy, reduced family contact, phone bans and isolation chambers. Refugee families suffered. All these people want to do is work. 

None of this compelled the refugees return home because the dangers they had fled were too great. 

Australia also oversaw the waste of human capital. Talented double degree engineers and doctors with seven languages were thrown on the same scrapheap as teenagers without an education. This was our loss.

All those who made it to Australian shores had dynamism and initiative. We denied ourselves frontline workers during a national labour shortage created by COVID-related border restrictions.

Above all, we took innocent people escaping some of the wars our nation were involved in. We abused them profoundly. We shamed ourselves on a global level. We undermined the 1951 Refugee Convention

Nothing replaces providing durable solutions at the source of conflict (such as airlifts from Kabul airport which should have occurred in greater numbers last September). 

Policies of family reunification and genuine compassion do not involve trafficking your problems to a developing country in return for financial aid. Rwandans deserve untied aid. 

The deals and corruption at the heart of these arrangements undermine the sovereignty of emerging nations. 

Huge compensation payouts have followed events on Manus and Nauru. 

And Britain thinks it clever or compassionate to copy this? Tony Abbott recommends this policy. This is not a man the UK should take advice from. 

Rwanda is still a place where human rights violations persist and violence against asylum seekers and refugees is rife. 

Jane Salmon is a refugee advocate. You can follow her on Twitter @jsalmonupstream.

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