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Rwandan offshoring: a Rwandan perspective

My name is Marie-Lyse. I am a British Citizen of Rwandan origin and I have lived in this country for over 20 years after fleeing the genocide. I would like to share the following:

Human rights are freedoms that belong to every single one of us, everywhere in the world.

The policy of “offshoring” people seeking asylum, that has resulted in the migration and economic partnership agreement between the UK and Rwanda, is an insult to the Rwandan people.

It is cruel and inhumane to those wishing to seek asylum in the UK, a misrepresentation of the generosity of British citizens and a shifting of responsibility to a small, poor country, with its own terrifying past and future.

Rwanda is a small country of just 12 million people. According to recent World Bank reports 56.5% live in poverty, and families in both urban and rural areas struggle with totally inadequate health services.

For the past 28 years, the human rights abuses of Rwandans by their own leaders have been researched and documented by several scholars, investigative journalists and international institutions. However, the voices of Rwandans themselves have been virtually ignored by the international community.

To add insult to injury, their plight is now being exploited by the UK government as a policy to tackle human trafficking. It is totally shameful that a country like the UK that calls itself a world leader, chooses to advance inhumane policies both for Rwandan citizens striving for their freedoms and democracy, as well as to those seeking safety and protection.

The UK government has to recognise that people seeking asylum are first and foremost human beings. Their rights must be fully respected and upheld as stipulated in the many international laws and covenants that the UK government has signed up to, including the Refugee Convention.

The government claims that the offshoring policy is the only solution. Have you already forgotten the response of the British public to the Ukrainian refugee crisis? If the British public can open their doors to the people of Ukraine and Afghanistan, would they close them for other migrants desperate for safety and a better life?

It is unrealistic to punish the victims of human trafficking as an approach to stop the smugglers.

Many people seeking sanctuary could contribute greatly to the prosperity of this country if given a chance. The UK currently has over 1.2 million job vacancies according to UK labour market analysts.

Those who are ready could be offered employment immediately and others offered skills development support. This is the humane way to treat migrants ending up at the European shore and to put the people smugglers out of business.

Please listen to the plea of the people who have made perilous journeys. There are underlying factors that have caused them to leave their home such as hunger, lack of good governance, political instability and poverty.

Listen also to the oppressed people of Rwanda and support Rwanda to tackle regional instabilities.

Support the British public who have opened their doors to offer sanctuary to all who seek it.

Listen to the general public, campaigners, academics and journalists, who have policy ideas that advocate for the protection of vulnerable individuals and families in our communities and abroad.

Join in the upsurge of condemnation of this plan, and of the Nationality and Borders Bill, and urge you to cease plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act and instead create humane and effective ways for refugees to seek to settle in the UK.

Marie-Lyse is a member of the Norwich City of Sanctuary group.