Rwanda: “A serpent in place of a piece of fish”


The UK’s forcible transportation to Rwanda of asylum seekers declared “inadmissible” because they have entered without a visa has rightly been deemed “ungodly” by Justin Welby. It is a basic infringement of the Golden rule of love of God and love of neighbour. Today, we often prefer other less theological language notably “concern”, “care”, “protection from harm” language which has become enshrined in the general notion of “human rights”. Nevertheless examples from Jesus’s parables such as  the neighbourliness of the Good Samaritan, the father’s unconditional love and care for his Prodigal Son survive in the public consciousness.

The Rwanda measure is a clear breach of these principles. Article 31 of the Refugee Convention expressly prohibits the imposition of penalties on refugees who arrive illegally. Article 33 protects refugees from “refoulement”, i.e. being turned away. Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits discrimination in the recognition of  Convention Rights, one of which – Article 3 – is designed to provide protection from danger or harm in the place of origin of the protected person. There is no place in international law for a “two-tier” system, with Rwanda for the less favoured, as this amounts to discrimination in the application of the law.

Worse, the fact is often overlooked that transportation to Rwanda is designed as a “one-way ticket”. The victim, if granted refugee status in Rwanda, will never have a right of entry to the UK. This now becomes an infringement of Article 34 of the Refugee Convetion, which states that “Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees”. Facilitation means the refugee is willingly participating in the process. The Rwanda offshoring procedure effectively compels future recognised refugees to adopt Rwandan nationality and never to be British as they are entitled to expect. Furthermore Rwanda is not to be held to any particular standard of care by Britain.

That is a fundamental breach of the concept of care. To quote from the Gospels “which one of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7 v9), “or in place of a piece of fish, will give him a serpent?”:  (Luke 11 v 11)

David Forbes