No Dunki route to London anymore: Why is Rishi Sunak deporting UK’s illegal immigrants to Rwanda? An explainer

The Rwanda plan was first proposed in April 2022 which entails relocating illegal immigrants for processing, asylum and resettlement. On April 30 this year, the first migrant was sent to Rwanda after his asylum application was rejected by the UK

Written By Vimal Chander Joshi
First Published5 May 2024
Rwanda plan was proposed to stop illegal migration and curb the practice of human trafficking in the UK. Many of illegal immigrants cross the English channel via boats.
Rwanda plan was proposed to stop illegal migration and curb the practice of human trafficking in the UK. Many of illegal immigrants cross the English channel via boats. (James Manning/Pool via REUTERS)

Imagine an asylum seeker from Afghanistan or a war-torn country goes to the UK through a dunki route and somehow manages to cross the English Channel and reach the United Kingdom while nurturing a hope of a better life. Upon reaching there, however, he is now likely to be deported to Rwanda, a small country in central Africa bordering Uganda and Tanzania. 

Something of this sort is now going to happen in the UK as ‘Rwanda Asylum Plan’ comes into force. 

On April 30 this year, the first migrant was sent to Rwanda after his asylum application was rejected by the United Kingdom. This was the first deportation to Rwanda, according to the British media. 

On April 22, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that his government had booked commercial charter planes and would start sending asylum seekers to Rwanda within 10 to 12 weeks.

ALSO READ:  Rishi Sunak's popularity at lowest, 70% survey respondents view the UK PM as 'unfavourably'

Background       

The Rwanda plan was first proposed in April 2022. This entails relocating illegal immigrants for processing, asylum and resettlement.

The plan is known as a way to stop illegal migration and the current PM, under the policy of ‘Stop the Boats’, is getting the Rwanda plan in action.

In return for this, the UK government will accept a small number of most vulnerable refugees from Rwanda and pay a sum total of £120 million to the African nation.

The Rwanda policy was signed on April 14, 2022 between Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta and then British home secretary Priti Patel, an Indian origin UK’s politician.

What was the hiccup so far?

The first flight for this plan got a green signal from the High Court of Justice and was scheduled for June 14, 2022. But thanks to the intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, the first flight to Rwanda was cancelled at the eleventh hour. 

Finally, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom gave its verdict in favour of the government on Nov 15, 2023. The British Parliament subsequently passed a bill Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 which overruled the courts judgments and declared Rwanda a safe country.

Why is UK government doing this?

This was aimed to stop illegal migration and curb the practice of human trafficking. There were several cases wherein a number of immigrants came in boats and refrigerated lorries. 

On October 23, 2019, one such lorry was intercepted carrying 39 illegal immigrants from Vietnam who had frozen to their deaths in the refrigerated vehicle. This was one of the many cases which came to light in the recent past that showed an organised network of human smugglers who send undocumented people from Asian and African countries to the UK and provide labourers to a large unorganised market there.

This case was similar to Dover Lorry Deaths in June 2000 when 58 dead bodies of Chinese nationals were found in a lorry in the port town of Dover, England.  

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