Illegal Immigration in Britain: Seek Solution through Cooperation with International Organizations

Britain seems to be in deepening anguish as it struggles between its sense of responsibility to protect refugees and the burden of accepting them. It is hoped that Britain will cooperate with international organizations and relevant countries to resolve the problem.

In Britain, a law has been enacted that will allow people, who have entered the country illegally with the intent to apply for refugee status, to be transferred to Rwanda in central Africa. The transfers are expected to begin as early as this summer.

Rwanda is expected to accept the people as refugees on behalf of Britain. In return, Rwanda will receive significant economic aid from the country.

Britain has traditionally accepted large numbers of refugees. In recent years, however, the number of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, the Middle East and other countries that are politically unstable has been increasing, and challenges such as deterioration of security have become issues. The number of illegal immigrants reached 45,000 in 2022.

In many cases, stowaways cross the English Channel in small boats. There reportedly is no end to the number of capsizing accidents.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration has explained that the measure would be implemented this time to discourage dangerous travels.

The British government has been budgeting more than ¥800 billion a year for such expenses as accommodating illegal immigrants. The apparent aim of this measure is to reduce the burden on the government.

However, Britain’s measure has been met with criticism from the international community that a developed county is using its economic power to force a developing nation to accept refugees. Given the circumstances of both countries, it is inevitable that Britain’s measure would be viewed this way.

Even within Britain, opinions are divided over the measure. The principle of international refugee law is that refugees and those seeking refugee status must not be deported or expelled.

Last year, the British Supreme Court ruled that the transfer plan was illegal on the grounds that people to be transferred to Rwanda could not have their refugee applications properly judged in Rwanda and could be deported to their countries of origin, where they are in danger of persecution.

In light of the judicial decision, the British government signed a treaty with Rwanda guaranteeing that those being transferred will not be deported to their countries of origin or expelled to third countries. The British government has repeatedly emphasized that Rwanda is a safe country.

Thirty years ago, mass murders took place in Rwanda against the background of ethnic conflict. Although the political situation is now stable to a certain degree, some are concerned about whether the human rights of the many refugees will be protected.

In the first place, refugees are created as a result of war, political oppression, poverty and other factors. Japan should make every possible effort, such as by urging the United Nations and other advanced countries, to resolve the refugee problem from the viewpoint of placing importance on the background issues that create refugees.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 17, 2024)