The new Migration and Economic Development Partnership agreement between the UK and Rwandan governments entrenches the criminalisation of men, women and children crossing the English Channel seeking refuge in the UK.

Journalists were briefed late last night of a possible scheme where asylum seekers who arrive in the UK would be sent 6,000 miles to Rwanda to be processed.

The home secretary Priti Patel later tweeted a picture of her stepping off the plane in Kigali, Rwanda, writing, “…a significant moment for the New Plan for Immigration”

Such plans have been met with strong criticism across the Twitter-sphere and morning breakfast programmes, described as cruel”, inhumane”, unworkable”, shameful” and evil”.

We are equally saddened by the government’s decision to proceed in this way and have persistently challenged the offshoring powers set out in the Nationality and Borders Bill. The bill has yet to become law and is in the final stages in parliament. There is strong disagreement between Lords and Commons over the language of illegal migrants” and the processing of asylum applications overseas. We believe offshoring is a poor use of taxpayers’ money but worse still embeds inhuman and degrading treatment towards those most in need.

Today, prime minister Boris Johnson held a press briefing in Lydd, Kent where he set out in greater detail the agreement between the two nations, hailing it as an opportunity for the government to set a new international standard in addressing the challenges of global migration and people smuggling.” Headlines from today’s press briefing are:

  • £120 million will be provided as support in processing of asylum claims, accommodation, and support integrating into Rwandan society for those granted refugee status.
  • Those who have travelled to the UK since 1 January this year via small boats or lorries can be sent to Rwanda where their claim will be processed.
  • New funding for asylum accommodation and detention centres in the UK in an attempt to reduce bridging hotels.
  • The Royal Navy will take over operations of the Channel and tackle the small boats crisis, supported with £50 million worth of funding.

Just last week in an interview on LBC radio the refugee minister Lord Harrington was asked whether sending individuals to Rwanda was possible. His reply was, there is no possibility of sending them to Rwanda”. Ten days on, the impossible has become an international agreement.

This deal will not solve the small boat crisis in the Channel

During the press briefing, the prime minister cited the growing concern of Channel crossing in recent years. Since the start of the year, 4,600 have arrived in the UK by small boat according to the Press Agency and those numbers look likely to increase throughout the year.

The BBC have reported that the accommodation facilities in Rwanda can support 100 people at a time with plans to process 500 in a year. If true, this agreement does not respond to the crisis. Around 600 people crossed the Channel in small boats on Wednesday, proving this agreement less to do with resolving the problem and more to do with offshoring responsibility to another government.

This agreement will not act as a deterrent to those desperately seeking sanctuary in the UK. Many, including Christians experiencing religious persecution, take unauthorised routes to access the UK because to present themselves in the country could result in imprisonment, physical assault or worse, death.

Bishop Paul Butler of Durham has been outspoken on the Nationality and Borders Bill and in a recent interview on BBC Newsnight said, I have serious doubts that this [agreement] will be a deterrent. What we need is safe routes that cover places like Iran, Iraq and Eritrea where most asylum seekers come from, and we need a deal with France.”

We have pushed for the government to establish safe routes for those fleeing war, conflict and persecution, particularly for countries in North Africa and the Middle East where no such safe route currently exists, and will continue to do so.

Taking back control of our borders has come at a huge price. Since Brexit the UK government has spent in excess of £54 million to tackle small boat crossings. And yet the greatest cost is to those men, women and children, many of whom have sadly paid with their very lives, taking treacherous journeys and living in unspeakable conditions – believing the UK would uphold its commitment to protect their right to seek asylum.

Here are three things you can do

  1. Write to your MP. On Wednesday, 20 April the Commons will discuss and vote on amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill which have been made by the Lords. Write to your local MP and ask them to speak against the UK-Rwanda agreement and urge the government to establish safe routes for men, women and children fleeing countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
  2. Join a Welcome Churches Network. Welcome Churches train and resource local churches in how they better support asylum seekers to integrate into communities.
  3. Pray. As I write this, today is Maundy Thursday and as we approach resurrection Sunday let us remember the eternal hope found in Jesus. Pray for those men, women and children who are fleeing war, conflict and persecution, that they would know God’s protection in times of uncertainty. Pray also for our politicians that they will establish an asylum system that is truly centred on promoting the dignity of all those seeking sanctuary in this country.

Write to your MP

Using the form below you will be able to write to your local MP. Please put in your details and it will find your MP’s email details. When you generate the email it will send a copy to our advocacy team; if you do not wish to do this you will be able to deselect this after you press​”send email”, and before it is sent to your MP.

In your own words we would encourage you to ask your MP to speak up in Wednesday’s debate, advocating for more safe and legal routes for countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The government has made statements supporting safe routes, but as yet have not put in place safe routes for men, women and children travelling from these countries. Urgent action is needed.

Ask your MP to push the government to set up more safe and legal routes