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).
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.