regular-article-logo Thursday, 01 June 2023

The Incidental Prime Minister

Sunak could have been a statesman except that he is a natural banker

Upala Sen Published 12.03.23, 02:49 AM
Representational image

Representational image Shutterstock

It is one thing to be a blustering minister at an Indian election rally threatening to throw “termite-like illegal immigrants” into the Bay of Bengal. It is an equally sinister thing, two nattily dressed grinning former bankers against the backdrop of a palace, no less, sharing a brolly and a signed plan on how to keep migrant-laden small boats from crossing the English Channel. The UK government has decided that illegal immigrants reaching Britain from Sudan, Iran, Syria, Albania or any other country will be sent to Rwanda. Even Denmark signed an agreement with Rwanda in 2022, but it remains suspended as of now. The Central African nation is used to such arrivals. Reportedly, between 2013 and 2018 Israel sent several thousand Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers there. Some others were sent to Uganda. And earlier this year, Germany too decided to strike deals with African countries and other states to help asylum procedures.

Did somebody ask the Rwandans?


It is impossible to understand how these African countries, themselves creaking under the weight of large populations, with haemorrhaging economies and abysmal rankings on the freedom index — India is at 6.39 to Rwanda’s 6.36, Syria with 3.66 is at the bottom of the list — are in anyway suited to receive these hapless floating people. In 2022 in Sussex, when 17 immigrants were told they would be sent to Rwanda, they went on hunger strike in protest. It so happens, Rwanda is seriously low in the hunger index.

Out of sight

But what are ground realities in the face of incentives? The UK is paying Rwanda an ”economic transformation and integration fund”, £140 million so far. Israel is said to have paid $ 5,000 for every migrant deported. Other countries offer legal aid, infrastructure baits and so on. The evangelists cloak their intentions in euphemisms. Australia calls its unwanted “unauthorised individuals” and has been removing them to the poor Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Israel’s now abrogated effort was called “Voluntary Departure Policy”. Germany’s Joachim Stamp is the first person to hold the portfolio of "special representative of the federal government for migration agreements”.

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