We asked Emma to share her exchange of letters with her MP, Simon Jupp.
Emma’s first letter:
I have waited a couple of days since the news about offloading refugees to Rwanda broke as I was waiting for the government to realise that this utterly preposterous and immoral plan was a complete travesty. But I am still waiting and, according to some Tories, it seems to be considered a good plan.
This is pandering to the far-right, racist hatred of foreigners which the Tory government has been supporting ever since they gave in to UKIP and allowed the Brexit referendum to take place.
The language used is reminiscent of the Nazis. This is not a comparison I use lightly but the talk of forcible resettlement is familiar. As I am sure you are aware the Madagascar plan was a proposal by the Nazis to relocate Jews to Madagascar.
This monstrous plan of holding refugees offshore has been tried in Australia, another right wing country. It was a total failure and has been condemned by the United Nations as a cruel, costly and ultimately futile system.
I hold no truck with the criminals charging absurd amounts to bring refugees to this shore but this is most definitely not the answer. It is cruel and inhumane. Why does the government refuse to accept the French offer of running reception centres on French soil?
Please do not say that these refugees are entering the country illegally unless you can show me what the legal ways are to reach Britain? The plans for Afghans and Ukrainians certainly aren’t working.
I speak as the daughter of a refugee who came to this country in 1940 with her Belgian mother, her sister and best friend who happened to be Bulgarian and Jewish. I dread to think what would have happened had they not been allowed to land from their boat but sent to Rwanda instead.
As my MP I trust you will be doing everything in your power to ensure that this inhuman plan never comes to fruition.
Thank you for contacting me. I hope you are well.
Many constituents have contacted me over the last few months about the large numbers of people crossing the English Channel. Propelled by criminal gangs, these people are often encouraged to risk their lives in flimsy rubber boats in the world’s busiest shipping channel. They pay extortionate sums for the privilege.
This exploitation of human life cannot be allowed to continue. Last year, the worst happened, with 27 people losing their lives, the biggest single loss of life experienced in the English Channel. Unless action is taken, more people will lose their lives. Therefore, I support steps being taken to halt this awful trade in people-smuggling.
You mention the role Rwanda will play in processing asylum applications.
I am encouraged that the UK has entered the world’s first Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda. Under the new partnership, people who enter the UK illegally, including by small boat across the Channel, may have their asylum claim considered in Rwanda rather than in the UK.
The UK is investing £120 million into the economic development and growth of Rwanda, with funding also provided to support the delivery of asylum operations, accommodation and integration, similar to the costs incurred in the UK for these services. The East-African country has growing trade links with the UK, which this scheme will complement as part of the government’s Global Britain agenda.
The partnership deal will deter people from making the perilous journey to the United Kingdom by making this country a less attractive destination. This will break the business model of the criminal gangs and save lives. Ultimately, I hope this deterrent is never needed.
It is important that the UK prioritises asylum for those that need it most and those who apply through various legal pathways. I would like to point out the work the UK is doing to support those fleeing Afghanistan by providing resettlement of up to 20,000 people in need of protection. In addition, the government’s launch of two uncapped pathways in response to the crisis in Ukraine is continued evidence of the UK’s willingness to adapt to international crises and support higher numbers of refugees and people in need of protection on a bespoke basis. The government is also allowing safe passage to those eligible in Hong Kong, recognising our historic and moral commitment to that territory, and large numbers from Syria.
Whilst I understand that many people seek better prospects, and are driven towards the UK in a desire for a better life, this cannot be at the expense of those who have genuine claims for asylum. The asylum system is already under strain, with many refugees recently welcomed from Afghanistan still being accommodated in hotel rooms. This remains the case in Exmouth. This is largely because we are facing a housing crisis in the UK, and pressures are particularly acute here in the South-West.
Those crossing the channel have no legal basis to be in the UK. I do not believe it is fair that they should be prioritised or able to shortcut those with genuine claims who arrive by legal and pre-determined routes.
I know you are concerned about Rwanda’s record on human rights. I would like to point out that Rwanda has improved drastically from the atrocities I read about growing up. Rwanda is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world and is globally recognised for her record in welcoming and integrating migrants.
Rwanda has a credible track record of working constructively with the UN Refugee Agency to provide food, healthcare and jobs with over 130,000 refugees recently resettled. The EU and UN both resettle people in Rwanda. Since 2019 Rwanda has been working with the UN Refugee Agency and the African Union to support over 500 refugees and asylum seekers evacuated from Libya, under the Emergency Transit Mechanism. They are housed at a dedicated centre providing mental health services, legal assistance, employment training and opportunities. Rwanda has also supported around 30,000 Burundian refugees who have also transited to the centre since 2015.
Furthermore, Rwanda has one of the fastest-growing economies and enterprise cultures. Indeed, many of the brightest young minds in the region are moving to the capital Kigali, which has become a hub for entrepreneurism in the Global South. We are doing Rwanda and indeed the whole African continent a disservice if we believe it can never compete with the opportunity and quality of life that Europe and America offer.
The deal with Rwanda is part of a series of methods aimed at tackling and deterring illegal immigration. These include new purpose-built reception centres and extra support for councils. Importantly, the Ministry of Defence is taking charge of cross-channel counter-migration operations. This will mean a much larger and more visible role for the Royal Navy in operational planning, asset co-ordination and operational delivery. There will be £50 million of new funding for new boats, aerial surveillance and military personnel in addition to the existing taskforce of patrol vessels, Wildcat helicopters, search and rescue aircraft, drones and remotely piloted aircraft. I support the involvement of the Ministry of Defence and believe it will make a difference.
These new measures, combined with the reforms to the asylum system and the changes to our laws in the Nationality and Borders Bill, will help deter illegal entry into the UK. This will help break the business model of the criminal people-smuggling gangs and protect the lives of those they endanger.
Thank you for your reply to my letter of 18th April about the evil plan to send refugees to Rwanda. You seem to have wilfully misunderstood my letter. You have sent me a press release directly from Conservative Central Office with an additional paragraph inserted about the situation in Exmouth (your assistant omitted to change the font.)
I hold no brief, as I said, for the criminal gangs extorting huge amounts of money from these poor refugees but if you decide to send these refugees to Rwanda all you will be doing will be giving the traffickers a second chance to extort money.
You bet I am concerned about Rwanda’s record on human rights. And so is the Home Office as they admitted 100 per cent of the refugee claims from Rwanda last year.
Human Rights Watch describes Rwanda as a country where “Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial detention facilities is commonplace, and fair trial standards are routinely flouted in many sensitive political cases, in which security-related charges are often used to prosecute prominent government critics. Arbitrary detention and mistreatment of street children, sex workers and petty vendors occurs widely”
What a lovely place to send refugees fleeing from war and famine in need of security.
The excessive sums of money being suggested, £120 million you say, could be so much better spent on setting up legal points of entry for these refugees in, for instance, France, rather than forcing them into the hands of the traffickers.
Did you read my last paragraph? I repeat it here:
“I speak as the daughter of a refugee who came to this country in 1940 with her Belgian mother, her sister and best friend who happened to be Bulgarian and Jewish. I dread to think what would have happened had they not been allowed to land from their boat but sent to Rwanda instead.”
Perhaps I didn’t make it clear that my aunt’s friend, Sophie Errio, had no passport. Later Dame Sonia Arova, she worked as a principal ballerina in the Ballets Russes, the London Festival Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the National Ballet of Washington DC and the American Ballet. She danced with Rudolph Nureyev in his American debut and became Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Norway.
Please try to use your imagination and think what some of these desperate refugees crossing the Channel today could become if they are welcomed rather than punished.
How will he now respond? Indeed, will he respond at all?