Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled the plans last week to strong opposition.
Charities and campaigners across Scotland have united in their opposition to what has been described as “inhumane” plans by the UK Government to send British asylum seekers to Rwanda.
Last week Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that many asylum seekers who arrive in the UK will have their asylum claim processed overseas in a plan which will cost £120million.
The Tory minister said the plans would help tackle what she described as “illegal” migration - a term widely contested by those supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland and beyond.
The changes come as the UK Government continues to push ahead with reforms to the asylum system and the changes to our laws in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which have been strongly opposed by voices across civil society.
The UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, expressed strong opposition and concerns about the UK’s plan to export its asylum obligations and urged the government to refrain from transferring asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda for asylum processing.
The commission said wealthier nations must show solidarity in supporting Rwanda and the refugees it already hosts, and not the other way around, claiming the UK is adopting arrangements that abdicate responsibility to others and thus threatening the international refugee protection regime.
Ms Patel said the new plan for immigration would “improve support for those directly fleeing oppression, persecution and tyranny through safe and legal routes, deter illegal entry, and make it easier to remove those with no right to be in the UK”.
Following the announcement last week, activists in Scotland have worked together to raise their own concerns with the plans, with one charity describing the plans to build an offshore processing centre in Rwanda as a “road to fascism”.
A protest, organised by the Maryhill Integration Network, was held in Glasgow’s George Square on Saturday, with hundreds of people gathering to oppose the plans.
Robina Qureshi, director of refugee homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing, said: “The refugee policy of this country should be clear by now. It’s not about saving refugees' skins, it’s about saving this government's skin.
“If the refugee is white European, give (some of) them a route to safety. If the refugee is brown or black, send them to Rwanda regardless. There is no legal route to the U.K.
“This is the road to fascism. Leaving a burning building provides no choice, human smuggling will continue.
“This is an unworkable plan. The UNHCR has condemned it. All of civic society has condemned it.”
Children’s charities have raised their own concerns with the effect this move could have on families and young people.
Azmina Siddique, policy and impact manager of The Children’s Society, said: “It’s shameful the Government is pressing ahead with this plan. This will do nothing to improve our asylum system and only put people in greater danger.
“We are particularly worried about children who could be mistakenly assessed as adults and sent to Rwanda. We know from the young people we support, that refugees have often fled war and persecution and already endured perilous journeys and experienced untold trauma to get here. To then be sent another 4,000 miles across the world, is unthinkable.
“The UK must play its part in welcoming those who need protection.”
General secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Roz Foyer, said the plans revealed the “evil and hostile” approach to those seeking asylum, calling the arrangement with Rwanda as “sickening” and “inhumane”.
She added: “Along with our equality committees, we reaffirm our position that Scotland welcomes refugees. We stand side by side with all those who are subject to this sadistic policy and would call for its immediate rejection.”
Other charities in Scotland have warned the plans clearly breach international law, describing the announcement as “difficult and upsetting”, as campaigners pledging to continue to fight the plans.
In a statement, the Scottish Refugee Council said: “We are appalled by today’s announcement that the UK Government will seek to offshore the UK’s asylum system to Rwanda.
“This policy is a very clear breach of international law. It is state sanctioned violence in practice.
“The timing of this announcement is shamefully political. As pressure mounts on those at the top of this government, they are using the rights and the lives of refugees to deflect from their own political woes. This is utterly reprehensible.
“That this government is choosing to model its asylum policy on Australia’s, a failed system mired by well documented serious human rights abuses, is shocking.
“This cannot be a replacement for the universal right to asylum which is enshrined in international law or working in partnership with the UN refugee agency to play our part in resettling refugees from around the world.”