The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemned the UK government’s plan to relocate illegal migrants to Rwanda, arguing that people “should not be traded like commodities.”
Responding to Thursday’s announcement of a new Migration and Economic Development Partnership between Britain and Rwanda, the UNHCR urged both sides “to re-think” the plans and to refrain from sending asylum seekers and refugees to East Africa for the processing of asylum applications.
“People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy. They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs said in a statement.
In her opinion, the initiative not only shifts asylum responsibilities and increases risks for migrants but also contradicts “the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.”
The UNHCR also pointed to the UK’s obligation “to ensure access to asylum for those seeking protection.”
“Those who are determined to be refugees can be integrated, while those who are not and have no other legal basis to stay, can be returned in safety and dignity to their country of origin,” the UN agency said.