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Shameful and Cruel

Children die in Channel hours after Rwanda act passes

A CHILD was among five desperate asylum-seekers who drowned in the Channel this morning as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak passed his cruel Rwanda Bill.

Three men, a woman and a young girl were killed off the coast of northern France after a dinghy ran into difficulties — just four hours after the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration Bill) cleared Parliament.

Some 49 people were rescued by the French coastguard while 58 others refused to leave the boat and continued their journey to Britain.

Mr Sunak said the tragedy “underscores why you need a deterrent.”

He said: “We want to prevent people making these very dangerous crossings.”

But refugee rights campaigners have warned that the plans would not stop desperate people from making the dangerous journey and vowed to continue to oppose flights to Rwanda.

An open letter signed by over 250 organisations has been sent to the Prime Minister opposing the plans, which they say breaks international law and “abandons our duty to share in the global responsibility towards those forced to seek safety.”

The Act is described in the letter as “a shameful and performatively cruel law that will risk people’s lives,” while the government is accused of rewriting facts following Britain’s Supreme Court ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country for refugees.

Signatures include the Refugee Council, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Detention Action, Refugee Action, Freedom from Torture, Care4Calais, Oxfam and Human Rights Watch.

Care4Calais CEO Steve Smith said people who have survived war, torture and persecution “should not be facing forced removal to a country that the UK Supreme Court ruled is unsafe.”

He called it a “dark day in British political history,” adding: “Today there will be real fear in the communities we support.

“We helped stop one Rwanda flight, and we will work tirelessly to do it again.”

JCWI executive director Yasmin Halima said that politicians should be focused on supporting struggling communities and protecting our NHS.

Detention Action director James Wilson added that the government has “turned its back on reality, as well as on our responsibility to protect refugees.”

Stand up to Racism co-convener Sabby Dhalu said the Act “illustrates a weak government desperate to stir up racism before a general election.”

“Asylum-seekers from Rwanda are being granted asylum in Britain precisely because it’s not safe,” she said.

“Five thousand people crossed the Channel this year, but there are only 300 places in Rwanda.

“The only viable solution is to implement safe routes for asylum seekers as for Ukrainian refugees.”

Amnesty International UK said that today’s deaths highlight the government’s “callous attitude” towards refugees.

Its refugee and migrants rights director Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “We’ve already seen the government attempt to use these tragedies at sea as an excuse to brazenly push ahead with its cruel and reckless scheme to forcibly transport people seeking asylum to Rwanda.

“Rather than concocting an unlawful and hugely wasteful plan to avoid this country’s responsibilities, ministers should be working with France and other countries to ensure people have safe access to asylum systems, including in the UK.”

Global Justice Now head of policy Dorothy Guerrero said refugees’ lives are “continually used as a political football, after years of being scapegoats for bad government decisions.”

She said campaigners will “not stop pushing for a change of course, with safe routes to seek asylum in the UK so that people no longer have to risk their lives in the Channel.”

Freedom from Torture’s Kolbassia Haoussou, who fled his homeland and was granted sanctuary in Britain, said refugees “deserve the chance to live a safe life, and to seek protection when we need it most.”

“Survivors have been at the forefront of campaigns urging the government to change direction,” he said.

“And we’re not going to stop now.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called the new law “an extortionately expensive gimmick rather than a serious plan to tackle dangerous boat crossings.”

Labour’s immigration policy would supposedly focus on boosting border security instead.

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf said the Act is “unworkable and morally repugnant.”

Mr Yousaf said he would “hope to resist” attempts for planes to take off from Scottish airfields, though it is not clear if this is likely.

The Council of Europe and the United Nations have also called on Mr Sunak to rethink the scheme.

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