The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed “strong opposition and concerns” on Thursday about the UK’s plan to export its asylum obligations.
It urged the UK, which is a key financial contributor to the UNHCR, to refrain from transferring asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda for asylum processing.
“UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards,” said UNHCR’s assistant head, Gillian Triggs. “Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.”
Triggs said those fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy.
“They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing,” he said.
The refugee agency urged the UK and Rwanda to re-think the plans.
It also warned that instead of deterring refugees from resorting to perilous journeys, the externalization arrangements would only magnify risks, causing refugees to seek alternative routes and exacerbating pressures on frontline states.
UThe U.N. refugee agency said Rwanda has “generously” provided a haven to refugees fleeing conflict and persecution for decades. Most live in camps with limited access to economic opportunities.
The The U.N. refugee agency believes wealthier nations must show solidarity in supporting Rwanda and the refugees it already hosts and not the other way around.
“The UK has an obligation to ensure access to asylum for those seeking protection,” it said.
Those 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, said the agency.
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