What are the Consequences of the Rwanda Scheme in a Geopolitical Context: The Domino Effect and Why Rwanda?

Written by Rose Armitage


The announcement and implementation of the UK’s new scheme will have consequences for the global geopolitical space. There is this understanding that it may create a geopolitical domino effect amongst many other countries. Furthermore, the safety of Rwanda to receive high amounts of deportations from multiple countries has also not been assessed.


 Countries Becoming Deportation Machines

Asylum-seeking systems are widely inadequate in economically advantaged countries. Fekete (2005) classified the European approach to migration as becoming a deportation machine where trauma and human rights abuses are disregarded. Many governments adopt the position that migration may threaten the stability of the country but also use the trope through party politics as a mechanism to cater towards populist movements. Haselsberger (2014) points out that borders can have a functional geopolitical and symbolical role. Symbolically, the scheme sets a precedent that asylum-seeking can be approached by the manipulation of power through the agreement of a financial deal instead of attending to obligations and responsibilities. It is pointed out by human rights organisations, and likewise by the UNHCR and the EU that as more countries adopt more deportation schemes, more will follow causing a domino effect (Al Jazeera, 2021) as it gives a green light to abuse people’s human right to claim asylum. However, it is argued that because the public response was generally negative, it would not contribute to other countries taking the same path, especially due to past deportation schemes, such as Australia expelling migrants to the island state of Nauru. (Höni, 2022). These examples and Rwanda could act more as a caution instead of an example. (Barry, 2022). Despite there being an inference that the scheme could be an example acting as a deterrent, the evidence suggests that more governments in economically advantaged countries are adopting similar methods. It is a dangerous example to set, a “socially constituent power practice” (Hasselberg, 2014), as it doesn’t commit to tackling the crisis with care and acknowledging the needs of the individuals but instead threatens those in difficult and vulnerable situations.


The Domino Effect

There are a handful of countries in recent years that have adopted deportation schemes that are strung with financial deals including Australia, Israel, Denmark, and US. (Al Jazeera, 2021). BMJ (2022) points to assessments of current deportation schemes such as in Australia that have led to humanitarian catastrophes with heavy death tolls. From the notion of “the assertion that every future encapsulates history” (Kwazema, 2022), as more countries adopt deportation schemes history is being written for the future to encapsulate the same exclusionary ideas. If more countries do not sustain their obligations in relation to asylum seeking it is more likely that it will materialise as a normality. Significantly, as we are living in an age with globalised mass-media showpiece politics in the geopolitical setting can be dangerously utilised more if countries advertise their refugee system as hostile fleeing asylum seekers will be less willing to seek help and safety when in need. In addition, it will also put on more pressure on the countries that are processing asylum seekers justly. It is hypothesised that once Denmark brought in new legalisations in June 2021 that allow for the removal of people once they were made aware that the UK was exploring the option with Rwanda Demark proceeded to arrange a similar agreement evidencing this domino effect in action. (Höni, 2021).


Why Rwanda?

Rwanda has agreed to the partnership due to the economic benefits it will receive but also as an opportunity to become more involved as an international player. Shortly after the scheme was announced, the Human Rights Watch (2022) sent a letter to the UK Home Secretary strongly urging the government to reconsider the plan. It is a clear abrogation of the UK’s international responsibilities and obligations whereby the scheme would be acting against the 1951 Refugee Convention. The letter also detailed the human rights issues occurring in Rwanda related to repression of free speech, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture by Rwandan authorities; moreover, it stressed it is a country still recovering and dealing with the national trauma of the genocide. It is questionable currently how viable and effective the integration of refugees (who have been deported against their will) into Rwanda given their political instabilities, injustices, and national trauma. As UK and Denmark have both made deals with Rwanda along with Switzerland and Canada paying Rwanda to take Libyan refugees since 2019 (Höni, 2022) it has not been investigated the impacts of accepting these deportations from several different countries on the Rwandan society.



Conclusively, whilst the argument has been put forward that the UK’s plan and similar plans in other countries will not cause a geopolitical domino effect of other countries following suit, I would disagree. Countries that introduce legislation and systems that blatantly violates human rights has a role in influencing other countries. More may orientate themselves towards the same power plays especially amongst high rising populism. This results in further contributing to ethical blind spots and disregarding’s people’s needs and well-being.



Al Jazeera. 2021. Danish parliament approves law to deport asylum seekers. Available from: Danish parliament approves law to deport asylum seekers | Migration News | Al Jazeera

Barry, E. 2022. Britain Is Sending Asylum-Seekers to Rwanda. It Sets a Dangerous Precedent. Time, Available from: U.K. Sends Asylum-Seekers to Rwanda, a Dangerous Development | Time

BMJ. 2022. UK-Rwanda migration plan fails to safeguard refugees’ medical care, say campaigners. Available from: UK-Rwanda migration plan fails to safeguard refugees’ medical care, say campaigners |B The BMJ

Fekete, L. 2005. The deportation machine: Europe, asylum and human rights. Race and Class, 47(1), pp.64-78.

Höni, J. 2022 Out of Sight, out of Mind?: Why the UK-Rwanda Deal on Offshore Migration Processing May (Not) Serve as an Example for Other Immigration-Skeptic States in the Global North, Völkerrechtsblog.

Haselsberger, B. 2014. Decoding borders. Appreciating border impacts on space and people. Planning Theory & Practice, 15(4), pp.505-26.

Human Rights Watch. 2022. Public Letter to UK Home Secretary on Expulsions to Rwanda. Available from: Public Letter to UK Home Secretary on Expulsions to Rwanda | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)

Kwazema, M. 2022. The Future as an Agency of Social Exclusion: Analysing the Ethnopolitical Exclusion of the Igbo People of Nigeria. In: Alemanji, A.A., Meijer, C.M., Kwazema, M., Benyah, F.E.K. (eds) Contemporary Discourses in Social Exclusion. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.


Read Rose’s first blog post here.

Critiquing the UK’s Rwanda Deportation Scheme: How it Deviates from Tackling the Issues Within the Migration System and Abuses Human Rights and Asylum-Seeking Obligations  

Written by Rose Armitage


Social exclusion in a geographical migration context can be defined as political and economic power structures at play that discriminate individuals moving from one place to another. UK’s Rwanda Scheme first announced in 2022, is a prime example of geographical social exclusion as it violates the country’s human rights obligations for people to claim asylum safely. I want to discuss the additions and damages of media and political discourses and how perception and language feed into persisting problems of division by power, the relationship between law and showpiece politics and what this means for human rights of asylum seekers. An asylum seeker can be defined as an individual seeking international protection due to fleeing their country of origin because of fear of persecution and a refugee is an asylum seeker who has been legally recognised (Amnesty International, 2019).


What is the Rwanda Scheme?

The Rwanda Scheme is a financial deal between the UK and Rwanda which implements systematic deportation of people who enter the UK to be deported to Rwanda if they enter the UK ‘unofficially’. However, it’s virtually impossible to claim asylum unless already in the country; therefore, the plan creates a paradoxical situation for asylum seekers. Reports (Sky, 2022) state that migration politics have long been susceptible to language that contributes to a perception that migration and asylum seeking is an issue of securitization. Securitization, in the context of international relations, refers to approaching an issue with the mindset that a certain issue is a crisis; therefore, it should be approached with urgency, threat and defence (Munster, 2012). The mobility of people whether migration or asylum seeking should never be considered an issue of securitisation. Historically, deportation has an association with crime; between the 16th and 18th century, convicts were transported from Britain and Ireland to various penal colonies such as Australia. As asylum-seeking is increasingly viewed as a securitization rather than a humanitarian issue, the dimension and association of criminality stick. In politics, the topic of migration is handled with the labels of “illegal” and “legal”. Furthermore, there is also a frequent use of the term “bogus” and “irregular migration”; within the former prime minister of Britain, Boris Johnson’s, speech we hear this terminology along with phrases like “These vile people smugglers are abusing the vulnerable” (Gov.co.uk, 2022) said with hypocrisy as, after all, what is deportation if not people smuggling and what is more vulnerable than doing this against someone’s will. Since last year’s speech the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, consistently remarks on the implementation of the deportation scheme and states deportations will happen “within days” and not months or years (Guardian, 2023).

Not only does the scheme impact the victim but further the hostility of marginalised individuals living in the UK. This political and media discourse generates exclusivity and racism which indirectly impacts xenophobia and racism in the UK. This intensifies the social exclusive lens of many people, encouraging support from those who hold populist ideals.


The Root of the Problem

The scheme alludes to solving migration issues as the UK government expects that the scheme will be a deterrent for asylum seekers coming to the UK. However, statistics show that there has been a minor change in the number of asylum seekers entering the UK since the scheme was announced (BBC, 2022). Chaloner et al. (2022) indicate that for several decades, the Home Office has consistently opted for methods that deter people from migrating and claiming asylum in the UK. Changes in the system are rarely implemented, despite presenting a rhetoric that the numbers are unmanageable. Chaloner et al. (2022) rightly categorise the government’s method as one of “disposing of” as opposed to a deterrent. Several organisations confirmed that such a scheme is unlawful and incompatible with Art. 31 (1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which forbids penalization of refugees for illegal entry (Höni, 2022). Despite this, in January 2023 after a long legal process, the high court upheld ruling the scheme as lawful, meaning in the coming months the plan can be actualised. Human Rights Watch (2022) also analysed that the plan would create a 2-tier refugee system through the categories of “illegal” and “legal”. Although the implementation of the scheme would make it very hard and restricted for people to claim asylum through the “legal” way, as you must be within the country to do so, the whole thing is barbaric. The only requirement to obtain refugee status should only ever be moving away from the threat of persecution or serious harm. The issue of people entering the country “unofficially” is a clear indicator of the failings of the UK government to provide safe and easy accessibility in the first place. Furthermore, the Rwanda scheme is a clear “structural, institutional or agentive process of repulsion or obstruction,” (Fischer, 2011), which will solidify a systemic exclusive nature in the future.


What Needs to Happen?

The scheme attributes against the needed changes within the migration system as discourse shifting is needed to able to help those in need. What is meant by discourse shifting is a change from viewing asylum-seeking with an exclusive, securitized, and hostile nature and towards being viewed as a humanitarian and social crisis. Deportations need to stop they are cruel and inhumane but also expensive and resource-consuming. A charity, Migrant Action (2021) understands that the UK needs to adopt changes that undergo research-based methods to grasp why the system is ineffective and failing so many. In addition to this, it is salient to transform these hostile environments so that within the many stages of the migration system, it is addressed as humanitarian as opposed to a legal battle. There have been numerous accounts of those who have been threatened by deportation which has severely impacted their mental health. Caato (2022), a writer for Al Jazeera, reported people having suicidal thoughts and going on hunger strikes in protest of the scheme. Campbell (2017) investigated the complexities and the faults of the UK’s migration system and concluded that it was an extremely lengthy process, involving several language tests and court hearings; any inconsistencies in paperwork may threaten the person’s chance of gaining refuge and put many at cumulative disadvantages. In addition to this, it is not uncommon for someone to get lost within the system. The mess of the migration with the addition of the scheme will catalyse a humanitarian crisis, as it will provide systematic efficiency and contribute to a harsher inside/outside dichotomy.



The UK’s move to further perpetuate social exclusions as a securitization issue, creating a framework where there’s a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to be an asylum seeker, is damaging to social exclusion in a geopolitical context as undermining international standards contributes to the ineffectiveness and protection of them when they are violated. Conclusively, the announcement has treacherously stimulated public uproar, creating a divisive showpiece that is using time and resources that could be diverted elsewhere. It alludes to solving migration issues, in contrast to getting to the root of the issue; there should be a focus on attending to these inefficient systems that are failing many people and perpetuating these issues further.



Amnesty International. 2019. Do you know the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker? The most common refugee terminology explained. 24 January. Available from: What’s the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker? (amnesty.org.au)

BBC, 2022. What is the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda? Available from: What is the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda? – BBC News

Caato, Mohamed Bashir. 2022. Al Jazeera. ‘I’ll take my life’: UK refugees being deported to Rwanda despair. Available from: ‘I’ll take my life’: UK refugees being deported to Rwanda despair | Refugees News | Al Jazeera

Campbell, J. 2017. Bureaucracy, Law, and Dystopia in the United Kingdom’s Asylum System. Routledge: London

Chaloner, J. Baggaley, R. Ryan, B. Nellums, L. 2022. Deter or dispose? A critique of the relocation of asylum applicants to Rwanda and its public health implications. Regional Health, 18 100442.

Gov.co.uk. 2022. PM speech on action to tackle illegal migration: 14 April 2022. Available from: PM speech on action to tackle illegal migration: 14 April 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Guardian. 2023. Rishi Sunak says people arriving in UK illegally will be deported ‘within days by Jessica Elgot and Rajeev Syal. 2 February. Available from: Rishi Sunak says people arriving in UK illegally will be deported ‘within days’ | Immigration and asylum | The Guardian

Höni, J. 2022 Out of Sight, out of Mind?: Why the UK-Rwanda Deal on Offshore Migration Processing May (Not) Serve as an Example for Other Immigration-Skeptic States in the Global North, Völkerrechtsblog.

Migrant Action. 2022. WHAT WE DO. Available from: Migrant Action

Munster, R V. 2012. The concept of Securitization. Oxford Bibliographies. Available from: Securitization – International Relations – Oxford Bibliographies

Sky. 2022. What is the Rwanda deportation scheme and why is it controversial? 14 June. Available from: What is the Rwanda deportation scheme and why is it controversial? – YouTube

Read Rose’s second blog post here.

Social Exclusion Annual Alumni Gathering

The Social Exclusion master’s program will hold an Alumni gathering for its current students and Alumni on May 9th, 2023, from 17:00 to 20:00 at The Runda Rummet Hall, Theologicum Building, Turku.

We will have a panel discussion with the program’s Alumni during the event. We will also have drinks, snacks, and some goodies from our event sponsors.

The event is open for the program’s current students and Alumni, and registration is required for attendance. (Registration link has been sent by email)