The Rwanda Plan Will Not Work: And Why Would It?

by Georgia Edwards

A recent report by The Guardian stated there has been an increase in the number of people per boat crossing the Channel, having the opposite effect than intended for the Rwanda Plan announced earlier this year.

The Ministry of Defence has shown that there is an average of 48 people on a single boat crossing. This is compared to 7 in 2018. Despite the Rwanda Plan attempting to deter those entering the UK via a ‘dangerous’ or ‘unsafe’ route, The Guardian report explained that 8,000 people have crossed since the announcement of the plan on 14th April 2022.

A 2016 Médicin San Frontières (MSF) study, that interviewed asylum seekers in The Calais Jungle, found that consideration of destination country policy was not of high priority when they were fleeing persecution. They found that the most common reason people wanted to reach the UK was due to social and familial connections, and for many of them, English was their second language.

Those deciding to leave the coast of France may also be considering the poorer standard of provision they receive whilst they wait for their claim to be decided. While the French asylum support system is fairly similar to the UK, there is no guarantee of housing, and they could be homeless. In the UK, someone who is waiting for a decision on their asylum claim will not be left destitute, irrespective of housing supply.

While the impacts of homelessness are obvious, the environment of the Calais Jungle exemplifies how there is also much higher risk of poor physical and mental health. In 2016 MSF found that 61% of those interviewed had physical health problems, most of which had developed since arriving in Calais. When there is open sewage, insufficient shelter, and inadequate cleaning facilities, it is easy to see why. While the Calais Jungle was officially demolished over five years ago, there are still many asylum seekers living in the woods that surround the port in the same terrible conditions.

For many seeking asylum in France, it would not have been the first safe country they would have entered. However, Care4Calais states that there is a misinterpretation around how many people choose to carry on with their journey. Most asylum seekers do stop in the first country they reach in Europe – most likely to be Greece or Italy. This is reflected in the numbers; considering the population of Greece is less than 11 million, 2.2% are asylum seekers. In the UK, with a population of nearly 70 million, only 0.6% are asylum seekers.

Regardless, a United Nations report found, when weighing up the legality of the Nationalities and Borders Act, that neither the Refugee Convention nor international law stipulates that you must claim asylum in the first safe country you reach. In addition, the Dublin Convention, which gave the UK the authority to request an asylum seeker be returned to another country in Europe they had passed through, is no longer in effect since the UK left the EU in 2020.

Even so, what is the actual cost of someone settling in the UK? A study by University College London found that migrants from outside the EU make a £5.2 billion positive net contribution to the UK while British nationals have a negative one. There is an endless number of positive impacts that can come from having a more culturally diverse demographic — stimulating economic growth is just one.

Asylum seekers are still arriving in the UK via a treacherous journey regardless of the immigration ramifications. There is much more to consider when you are forced to leave your home. Getting to a safe country where you can rebuild your life with family and communities that you know will continue to play a big part in people deciding to come to the UK. And why wouldn’t it?

Image: “sea side” by bibekthecrony is licensed under CC BY 2.0.