Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack wins cross-party support for appeal to Boris Johnson to reconsider Rwanda policy
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack has secured the support of almost one-third of Scotland’s 129 MSPs for an open letter to Boris Johnson condemning his policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.
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A total of 42 Holyrood politicians have signed the cross-party protest, branding the scheme “inhumane, ineffective, and damaging” and urging the Prime Minister to reconsider the plan.
The Scottish Refugee Council and campaign group Freedom From Torture have also signed.
The letter argues: “By outsourcing our asylum system, we refuse to play our part in the international protection system and deny our responsibility, which is both a legal and ethical one, to help those forced to flee their homes."
And it claims the scheme won’t work. It tells Mr Johnson: “Since you announced this plan, more than 4,300 people have reached the UK in small boats, which is more than two and half times the number that crossed in the same period last year and maintains the same pace of increase seen since the beginning of the year. Instead of preventing the avoidable death of innocent people in the English Channel, this scheme will further feed the trafficking of vulnerable people through north Africa, across Europe, and back into the UK.”
The letter says the vast majority of refugees relocated from Israel to Rwanda and Uganda under a similar scheme between 2014-17 immediately left again due to the conditions. “Many of them put themselves in danger in an attempt to reach Europe. Rather than deter their arrival, refugees will continue to seek sanctuary in the UK but the fear of relocation to Rwanda will drive them underground into exploitation and abuse rather than the into the asylum system.”
It says the scheme would be “equally shameful” whichever state the UK chose to send asylum seekers to, but described the choice of Rwanda as “particularly alarming” and cites human rights concerns raised by the United Nations and others. “As recently as 2021, the UK Government itself has cited ongoing concern about the Rwandan Government’s restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom.”
And the letter concludes arguing the policy is a breach of the UK’s commitments under international human rights law. “The UK’s plans will inevitably be deemed unlawful and ultimately they will fail, but in the process they will put people who have already been through enough, in avoidable danger.”
Ms Boyack, who is Scottish Labour’s external affairs spokesperson, said: “As our open letter states, the Rwanda plan is inhumane, ineffective and damaging to UK’s position in the world. Our time to stop the plans of Boris Johnson and Priti Patel is running out.
“The Conservatives have admitted trying to send victims of torture as part of this plan, which is designed to attract headlines rather than solve the problem of desperate people drowning in the Channel.
“I’d like to thank the Scottish Labour, SNP, Scottish Greens and Lib Dems MSPs who have signed the letter and added their voice to our calls for action.
"What we need is proper action to target the evil criminal gangs instead of an unworkable, unethical and extortionately expensive stunt designed to cause division and create headlines rather than solve the problem of desperate people.”