Boris Johnson's Rwanda policy is a betrayal of the Refugee Convention that Britain helped draw up – Ian Swanson
It's hard to imagine the terror that must be involved in climbing into a flimsy, overcrowded boat and risking your life in the often stormy waters of the Channel.
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But the people who do it are desperate. Most of them are fleeing danger or persecution in their homeland; they have already endured countless horrors in getting to the French coast; and they see the perilous crossing to the UK as their last hurdle to reaching safety.
Whatever Boris Johnson and Priti Patel claim, they are not going to be deterred by politicians' threats of being sent to Rwanda.
The UK Government's heartless and inhumane new policy of dispatching asylum-seekers 4,000 miles on a one-way ticket to East Africa got off to a bad start last week after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
The original plan had been to fly 150 asylum-seekers to Rwanda, but a series of legal appeals gradually whittled the number down until there were just a handful still due to go.
The last-minute ECHR ruling at least prevented the farce of the Boeing 767 chartered for the purpose taking off with just five on board. But the Home Office still reportedly had to pay £500,000 for the cancelled flight.
The policy has been widely condemned – by over 160 charities and campaign groups who labelled it "shamefully cruel", by church leaders north and south of the border and even apparently by Prince Charles, who is said to have described it in private as "appalling".
But Boris Johnson and his colleagues don't care. They see this as a policy where they win whatever happens. If they manage to send any asylum-seekers to Rwanda they will present that as a triumph and expect public plaudits for taking a tough line on migrants.
But if future flights are also blocked, they will just blame "lefty lawyers" and "European judges" and feed the worst prejudices of voters to boost their popularity.
The government claims the purpose of the policy is to stop the dangerous Channel crossings, insisting it will break the business model of the people smugglers. But when Israel made a similar arrangement with Rwanda, many asylum-seekers ended up paying smugglers to escape and travel to Europe.
The way to stop the crossings is to provide alternative routes for people to claim asylum. At the moment, you have to be on British soil to apply and there are few legal ways for refugees to get here. Campaigners suggest issuing visas to asylum seekers as is now happening for Ukrainians.
Britain takes far fewer refugees than most other European countries and those eager to come here mostly have strong reasons for doing so, such as family ties or being able to speak the language.
But now Britain is trying to outsource its responsibilities. Rwanda is not just to be used as a holding centre while cases are processed with the potential for refugees to be granted asylum in the UK. The people flown to Kigali will stay there.
Britain helped draw up the 1951 Refugee Convention to help rescue some of the world’s most desperate, frightened and vulnerable people. Its attempt now to wash its hands of its obligations is a betrayal not just of the individuals involved but the principles of international compassion we once cherished.