.
I

n 2018, independent European think tank CEPS published a report which advised European countries against adopting “offshore” asylum policies. Other academic articles have condemned the policy as exploitative and detrimental to migrants’ health. Nevertheless, the UK announced plans in April to implement this exact policy. If UK policymakers knew offshoring asylum was a bad idea, why are they implementing it anyway?

The plan called for single men who had crossed the English Channel to seek asylum to be deported to Rwanda as early as June 14. The policy received immediate and widespread backlash from human rights organizations and the Anglican Church. Only last minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) successfully suspended the first flight. The ECHR’s concerns mirrored those of the 2018 report.

Four Catastrophic Attempts at Offshoring

CEPS’ report drew its conclusions from case studies of Australia, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States. All four cases highlighted recurring themes of substandard living conditions, inadequate protection from abuse, and limited or unfair legal assistance. In two cases, offshore asylum practices increased racial discrimination against immigrants.

Even in Tunisia, where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) managed the migrant camp, CEPS found that migrants “[lacked] adequate protection from harsh weather conditions” and “suffered from inappropriate behavior of the camp’s staff, the lack of access to interpreters, and irregularities in the management of files.” Asylum applications were often rejected without independent review, and migrants were separated by nationality and ethnicity, creating inter-camp tensions

None of the cases proved to be effective at curtailing migration. In Australia, ebbs and flows in migration correlated with global migration trends. There was a noticeable reduction in migration to Spain via the Canary Islands, but it increased the number of migrants stuck in Morocco. Tunisia’s UNHCR-managed camp may have even attracted more migrants, and there is insufficient evidence to prove the policy had any effect on irregular migration to Europe.

Why Offshoring Won’t Work for Europe

These four offshoring policies violated migrants’ human rights to security and liberty. Camps were like detention centers, and asylum seekers could not actually seek asylum.

The policy of non-refoulement—which protects individuals from forced return to a country in which their human rights are at risk—was regularly evaded, according to the report. Offshored migrants do not clearly fit into any legal system. Once in a third country, it is unclear whose laws, if any, apply.

But the ECHR takes this legal in-between into account, prohibiting off-shoring to a third country when the person may be returned to the country they left originally. Thus, the report goes beyond ethical and economic cases against off-shoring, highlighting the distinct legal hurdles European countries face.

Lawyers raised many of the same points as the 2018 report in a hearing before the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights. One of the lawyers, Stephanie Harrison, claimed the UK-Rwanda deal is “literally [not] worth the paper it is written on in terms of any effective or legally binding guarantee.” Yet this is the only written document ensuring Rwanda will uphold international refugee and human rights laws.

The lawyers and certain parliament members were unconvinced that Rwanda would be a haven for refugees. Rwanda does not protect LGBT individuals, nor does it adequately protect trafficking victims. Israel offshored migrants to Rwanda in 2013, but none of them are thought to have stayed. It’s unclear whether the migrants left safely or were trafficked.

It's About Shock Value, Not Kindness

UK Conservatives argue offshoring asylum will save lives by deterring migrants from crossing the English Channel on rafts, but many of the refugees set to go to Rwanda on June 14th went on hunger strike and threatened suicide.

Curtailing immigration is a long-standing Conservative Party priority, and visible, hardline immigration policies have proven to increase negative public opinion about immigrants. Given that the number of asylum applications in the UK have increased by 56% since 2020, and research from February 2022 revealed 75% of British people support harboring refugees, it is in the best interest of the Conservative Party to do something drastic like offshoring.

The UK already has a problematic record on immigrants’ rights, so reputation is not the biggest factor in Conservative policy making. In 2016, the government raised court fees for immigrants and asylum seekers by 500%. In 2018, it threatened to deport thousands of citizens whose parents were part of the Windrush population that immigrated to England from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971.

Offshoring asylum may not prevent immigration to Europe, but thanks to Brexit, it could very well deter asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel. The Conservative Party does not have very much to lose from proposing an offshoring policy, and it has so much to win if the plan is ultimately upheld by the courts in July.

About
Millie Brigaud
:
Millie Brigaud is an aspiring journalist pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French at William & Mary (class of 2023). Before joining the Diplomatic Courier, Millie interned at Rue89 Strasbourg, a local online newspaper in Strasbourg, France.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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The UK’s Offshoring Asylum Plan is About Politics, Not Saving Lives

Photo by Andrew Wulf via Unsplash.

July 5, 2022

“Offshore” asylum policies are widely condemned for their exploitative and detrimental effects on migrants. Despite this, the UK government announced plans in April to deport single male asylum seekers to Rwanda, raising the question of why they implemented the policy, writes Millie Brigaud.

I

n 2018, independent European think tank CEPS published a report which advised European countries against adopting “offshore” asylum policies. Other academic articles have condemned the policy as exploitative and detrimental to migrants’ health. Nevertheless, the UK announced plans in April to implement this exact policy. If UK policymakers knew offshoring asylum was a bad idea, why are they implementing it anyway?

The plan called for single men who had crossed the English Channel to seek asylum to be deported to Rwanda as early as June 14. The policy received immediate and widespread backlash from human rights organizations and the Anglican Church. Only last minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) successfully suspended the first flight. The ECHR’s concerns mirrored those of the 2018 report.

Four Catastrophic Attempts at Offshoring

CEPS’ report drew its conclusions from case studies of Australia, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States. All four cases highlighted recurring themes of substandard living conditions, inadequate protection from abuse, and limited or unfair legal assistance. In two cases, offshore asylum practices increased racial discrimination against immigrants.

Even in Tunisia, where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) managed the migrant camp, CEPS found that migrants “[lacked] adequate protection from harsh weather conditions” and “suffered from inappropriate behavior of the camp’s staff, the lack of access to interpreters, and irregularities in the management of files.” Asylum applications were often rejected without independent review, and migrants were separated by nationality and ethnicity, creating inter-camp tensions

None of the cases proved to be effective at curtailing migration. In Australia, ebbs and flows in migration correlated with global migration trends. There was a noticeable reduction in migration to Spain via the Canary Islands, but it increased the number of migrants stuck in Morocco. Tunisia’s UNHCR-managed camp may have even attracted more migrants, and there is insufficient evidence to prove the policy had any effect on irregular migration to Europe.

Why Offshoring Won’t Work for Europe

These four offshoring policies violated migrants’ human rights to security and liberty. Camps were like detention centers, and asylum seekers could not actually seek asylum.

The policy of non-refoulement—which protects individuals from forced return to a country in which their human rights are at risk—was regularly evaded, according to the report. Offshored migrants do not clearly fit into any legal system. Once in a third country, it is unclear whose laws, if any, apply.

But the ECHR takes this legal in-between into account, prohibiting off-shoring to a third country when the person may be returned to the country they left originally. Thus, the report goes beyond ethical and economic cases against off-shoring, highlighting the distinct legal hurdles European countries face.

Lawyers raised many of the same points as the 2018 report in a hearing before the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights. One of the lawyers, Stephanie Harrison, claimed the UK-Rwanda deal is “literally [not] worth the paper it is written on in terms of any effective or legally binding guarantee.” Yet this is the only written document ensuring Rwanda will uphold international refugee and human rights laws.

The lawyers and certain parliament members were unconvinced that Rwanda would be a haven for refugees. Rwanda does not protect LGBT individuals, nor does it adequately protect trafficking victims. Israel offshored migrants to Rwanda in 2013, but none of them are thought to have stayed. It’s unclear whether the migrants left safely or were trafficked.

It's About Shock Value, Not Kindness

UK Conservatives argue offshoring asylum will save lives by deterring migrants from crossing the English Channel on rafts, but many of the refugees set to go to Rwanda on June 14th went on hunger strike and threatened suicide.

Curtailing immigration is a long-standing Conservative Party priority, and visible, hardline immigration policies have proven to increase negative public opinion about immigrants. Given that the number of asylum applications in the UK have increased by 56% since 2020, and research from February 2022 revealed 75% of British people support harboring refugees, it is in the best interest of the Conservative Party to do something drastic like offshoring.

The UK already has a problematic record on immigrants’ rights, so reputation is not the biggest factor in Conservative policy making. In 2016, the government raised court fees for immigrants and asylum seekers by 500%. In 2018, it threatened to deport thousands of citizens whose parents were part of the Windrush population that immigrated to England from the Caribbean between 1948 and 1971.

Offshoring asylum may not prevent immigration to Europe, but thanks to Brexit, it could very well deter asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel. The Conservative Party does not have very much to lose from proposing an offshoring policy, and it has so much to win if the plan is ultimately upheld by the courts in July.

About
Millie Brigaud
:
Millie Brigaud is an aspiring journalist pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and French at William & Mary (class of 2023). Before joining the Diplomatic Courier, Millie interned at Rue89 Strasbourg, a local online newspaper in Strasbourg, France.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.