UK Plan To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda May Never Happen But Other European Leaders Still Want To Copy It Podcast

Author: Gemma Ware

(MENAFN- The Conversation) A controversial British government plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has been central to the UK's response to a recent sharp increase in the number of people making the dangerous journey across the English channel in small boats. But if the Conservative party lose the general election in early July, the Rwanda plan is likely to be abandoned.

In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, two experts in UK immigration policy explain how the Rwanda plan became such a crucial part of the immigration debate in the UK. And how, whatever happens in the election, it's already shifting the wider conversation in Europe about how to deal with migrants and asylum seekers.

In a BBC interview the morning after he announced a UK general election for July 4, the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, put his Conservative party's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda front and centre of his re-election campaign. The policy has been held up by a series of legal challenges, but Sunak insisted that if he's re-elected, flights to Rwanda would leave in July.

The Labour party, which is widely expected to win the election and form the next British government, says it will scrap the Rwanda plan and use the money to create a new Border Security Command of investigators focused on targeting the criminal gangs behind the small boat crossings in the English Channel. But Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, also hasn't ruled out processing asylum seekers offshore if the law permits it.

For Nando Sigona and Michaela Benson, the Rwanda plan is part of a wider attempt by Britain to reposition itself after Brexit. Sigona is a professor of international migration and forced displacement at the University of Birmingham, and Benson is a professor of public sociology at Lancaster University. They're leading a research project examining the long-term effects of Brexit on migration between the EU and UK.

Sigona says the rationale behind the Rwanda plan was that it would deter migrants from crossing irregularly into the UK if they knew they would be sent to the east African country for processing.

Benson explains that the rise in small-boat crossings“are a Brexit-made policy failure” and that the change in the relationship between the UK and the EU, in particular the UK's removal from the EU border regime, has been“significant in increasing the number of crossings”.

Read more: Is the Rwanda plan acting as a deterrent? Here's what the evidence says about this approach

When the Rwanda plan was first floated, in 2022, it was largely derided by European leaders and member states in the European Union. But now some EU leaders have suggested they are open to the idea of sending asylum-seekers to third countries for processing. In May, the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said the UK was a“pioneer” in migration policy , citing the Rwanda plan. Benson says:

Listen to Nando Sigona and Michaela Benson explain the wider context of the migration plan and the effect of Brexit on the UK's migration policy on The Conversation Weekly podcast. The episode also features an introduction from Avery Anapol from the politics team at The Conversation in the UK.

A transcript of this episode is available on Apple Podcasts .

Newsclips in this episode from BBC Radio 4 , France 24 English , BBC News , CGTN Africa , CityNews , euronews , Sky News , ITV News and DW News .

This episode of The Conversation Weekly was written and produced by Mend Mariwany, with assistance from Katie Flood. Gemma Ware was the executive producer. Sound design was by Eloise Stevens, and our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Stephen Khan is our global executive editor and Soraya Nandy helps with our transcripts.

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