'Rwanda flights are the disgrace, not the courts stopping them'

Coun Ben Bradley is wrong. The disgrace is not that the first flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda was prevented from departing by the European Court of Human Rights, writes Chad reader Jay Mandal.

By Jay Mandal
Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 8:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 7:43 pm

It is that these flights are being planned at all, and that as a result, the UK is once again found to be pursuing a policy contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The European Convention on Human Rights is not some foreign edict imposed on this country. It was drawn up in 1951 to safeguard human rights in Europe after an appalling period in European history which saw the most horrific state abuses of human rights including genocide. The committee which drew up the convention was led by a British lawyer and MP from Bradley's own party, David Maxwell-Fyfe. The European Court of Human Rights adjudicates on cases concerning infringements of the Convention of Human Rights and includes judges from all the countries signed up to the convention, including our own. The human rights covered by the convention, are not just those of the people seeking asylum, but those of all of us- your rights and mine.

No court anywhere is going to reach verdicts all the time which satisfy everyone, but we are bound by the rule of law. In saying the ECHR intervention is ‘nonsensical’ and deriding the lawyers who brought the case to the courts as ‘ambulance chasers’, is Coun Bradley suggesting the government is above the law? Is this how the government will treat anyone calling it to account and challenging it when it feels it can act without regard to any legal or moral standard?

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Coun Ben Bradley, Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire Council leader, in the House of Commons.

Anyone has the right to claim asylum in another country, under the UN Refugee Convention, another international convention Britain helped to draw up. It is up to the authorities in the country in which the claim is made to decide if it is admissible or not. Sending asylum seekers coming into the UK through irregular routes like Channel crossings – since regular routes are absent – to Rwanda for the authorities there to decide on the validity of their asylum claims, and then keep them in Rwanda if their claims are upheld, is an inhuman and immoral evasion of our responsibilities, especially given the Rwandan government has itself been responsible for human rights abuses against its political dissidents, and has discriminated against its homosexual citizens.

Asylum-seekers coming to the UK do so for valid reasons. In many cases they have family members already here. There may be existing communities here from the countries they are from and they may have familiarity with the English language enabling them to resettle here more easily. And they come here at great risk, not taken lightly, to flee circumstances of conflict, persecution or deprivation which few people in this country, like Coun Bradley, could begin to imagine even if they could be bothered to try.

Instead of considering why people seek asylum here, Coun Bradley falls on the old trope of the ‘strain this has on public services’. People seeking asylum do not place additional strain on public services which were under- resourced to begin with, but saying they do distracts from the question we should be asking, which is that since Coun Bradley has been our MP in Mansfield for seven years, and his party have been in government for 12 years, what have they actually done about these strains? The only tangible effect of policy over the past 12 years have been to leave our public services in even worse shape. And blaming the state they are in on vulnerable people seeking sanctuary in our country is, frankly, repugnant.

No-one choses to be a refugee. Given a chance, refugees just want to contribute to the countries which have taken them in and rebuild their lives. That has been the case with every successive wave of refugees who have come to our country. There are better ways of assisting asylum seekers than keeping them in immigration detention centres or sending them to Rwanda, both policies condemned by every organisation involved in the care of refugees from the Refugee Council to the UNHCR. Accommodating them in the community and allowing them to work while their asylum claims are being processed, are two more practical and civilised ways of caring for people seeking asylum which would benefit us and them.

Chad reader Jay Mandal, of Mansfield

The UK has the fifth largest economy in the world. Refugees coming here have been historically vilified and treated as a problem, before going on to prove they are assets, making solid and enduring contributions to our society. We can do better by the people seeking asylum here, and in the process become a better society. That will take moral leadership which is sadly lacking both in the prime minister, the home secretary, and in your weekly columnist.

Jay Mandal