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Sensemaker: Rwanda bound

Sensemaker: Rwanda bound

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Donald Trump called the congressional inquiry into the Capitol riot a “Kangaroo Court” designed to distract Americans from Democrats’ failures.
  • A 200-strong mob dragged political advisor Daniel Picazo into a field in the central Mexican state of Puebla and set him on fire, after rumours spread on local WhatsApp chats that he had been involved in the kidnapping of a child.
  • A ship carrying 15,800 sheep sank in Sudan’s Red Sea port of Suakin, drowning most of the animals but with all crew surviving.

Rwanda bound

The UK’s foreign secretary is adamant that a rented Boeing 767 with a curiously anonymous paint job will take off this evening bound for Kigali with at least one asylum seeker on board. She reckons there could be 10 of them (on a plane with room for 200), including Iranians, Iraqis, an Albanian and a victim of torture.

The operation is expected to cost £500,000. “The really important thing,” Liz Truss said, “is we establish the principle.”

The strategy. The government says its Rwanda scheme will deter asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey across the English Channel, and so undermine smuggling gangs. 

People sent to Rwanda, which has been promised £120 million from Britain over five years, have been told they’ll be given accommodation and support while their application for asylum is considered by Rwanda. If unsuccessful, they could be deported or offered the chance of another immigration route. 

The fight. Passenger numbers were reduced drastically – 37 were scheduled to fly – after individual legal challenges mostly relating to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which enshrines a person’s right to family life, a home, and correspondence.

The numbers dwindled to the point where one government source said yesterday the flight might be cancelled. But a government spokesperson said today it would go ahead despite yet more last-minute challenges. 

UK courts have upheld the government’s right to try to proceed, but the practical, moral and legal basis for the scheme looks fragile at best:

  • The evidence of a deterrent effect on refugees seeking to cross the Channel on small boats, according to the Home Office’s own permanent secretary, is “highly uncertain”.
  • A survey of more than 60 asylum seekers in Calais and Dunkirk by the charity Care4Calais found that the policy hasn’t put them off attempting the crossing. 
  • The permanent secretary says the policy may not provide value for money either.
  • The plan has been criticised by charities, MPs and the entire leadership of the Church of England. The archbishops of Canterbury and York and the other 23 bishops who sit in the House of Lords said that whether the flight leaves or not, “this policy should shame us as a nation.”
  • Prince Charles has called it “appalling.” 

Charities asked the High Court for a blocking injunction to stop the Home Office from sending the first flight. They argued that the policy treats asylum seekers as “guinea pigs” for a process that hasn’t been properly tested; that it undermines the “basic dignity” of people who are escaping war and oppression; and that Rwanda is not a safe place for them. 

Lawyers for the Home Office argued there was a “strong public interest in permitting these removals to proceed as scheduled” and that a “clear public interest in deterring the making of dangerous journeys and the activities of criminal smugglers”. The High Court agreed. The charities appealed, but the Appeal Court ruled yesterday that the flight should go ahead – and refused permission for an appeal to the Supreme Court.

A full hearing on the lawfulness of the Rwanda policy is due in July. If judges find that the policy is unlawful, people sent to Rwanda could be returned to the UK.

In the meantime, ministers will take heart from a YouGov survey of British adults conducted in April that found 59 per cent of Conservative voters support the policy. Only 22 per cent didn’t. 

The precedent. The UK government calls its Rwanda plan a “world first”, but this isn’t true. Israel sent thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda a few years ago in a so-called “voluntary departure” scheme that was ultimately abandoned. This week’s Slow Newscast, by barrister and author Hashi Mohamed, himself a child refugee, tells the story of how the scheme fell apart – and what that meant for the people caught up in it.

Spoiler alert: there was no happy ending. Most of the new arrivals in Rwanda quickly became refugees again, given just enough money to pay traffickers to restart their quests for asylum in countries where they thought they might actually feel safe.

COMMENT

The weaponisation of ESG

Ashur Nissan

What do McDonald’s and Janet Yellen have in common? They’ve both recently announced the end of a 30-year experiment in globalisation. McDonald’s did so by saying it was selling its Russian burger business, but Yellen got there first. In an under-reported speech in April the US treasury secretary argued for “friend-shoring” supply chains to “extend market access [and] lower the risks to our economy”.

If “friend-shoring” sounds like jargon, it’s important jargon.


CAPITAL ECONOMY, BUSINESS AND FINANCE

No tax cut
Boris Johnson won’t cut taxes until inflation is under control. Along with the Treasury, he concluded that lower taxes would drive more spending and, in turn, higher prices. “We’ve got to be responsible,” a senior government source told the Telegraph. The Bank of England expects inflation will start falling in the first quarter of next year. Johnson’s backbenchers want him to cut taxes sooner.


CULTURE soCIETY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING

Buzz-censorship
More than 14 countries will be blocked from seeing the much-anticipated Toy Story prequel spin-off Lightyear. In a first for Pixar’s feature-length animations, the film includes a same-sex kiss between two female characters. The kiss has riled censors in the Gulf and South Asia, including the UAE. China, the world’s largest film market, is also expected to block the film. The kiss has caused controversy in the US too, after Pixar’s silence on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law led employees to publish a letter criticising the studio’s weak LGBTQ+ representation. In response, the studio decided to reinstate the kiss. It’s now 100 years since Hollywood’s first same-sex kiss, in Cecil B DeMille’s Manslaughter.  


TECHNOLOGY AI, SCIENCE AND NEW THINGS

Darwin Tree of Life
The Darwin Tree of Life, a genome sequencing project by the Sanger Institute, will map the DNA of every single organism found in Britain and Ireland. There are an estimated 70,000 species to cover. The hope is that it will transform our understanding of the natural world, and provide nature-inspired medicines and materials. It could, for example, explain how female badgers can delay pregnancy after the implantation of a fertilized egg until the best time of year to have a cub. Sequencing a genome used to take years. Now it takes days.


The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Hottest city on earth
As Europe experiences unusually early summer heatwaves with temperatures expected to hit 41C in Seville today, in the Pakistani city of Jacobabad the mercury is unlikely to fall below 40C all week. In May, temperatures there hit 51C, making Jacobabad the hottest city on Earth and putting pregnant women in particular at risk, as Reuters reports. Analysis of stillborn and premature births in 2020 found that for every degree rise in temperature there is an estimated 5 per cent increase in risk of low birth weight or premature and stillborn births. Once babies are born, mothers are often returning to manual labour in scorching fields and cooking on open fires with little ventilation. There is still a lack of data on how many women are affected by rising temperatures in cities like Jacobadad. 


Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

War and coal
UN Secretary-General António Guterres described countries’ plans to spend money on new fossil fuel projects as “delusional,” after they signalled their intentions to burn more coal to make up for the energy market disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. More coal, he said, will only reinforce the “scourge of war, pollution and climate catastrophe” and that renewable energy is the peace plan of this century. Since the invasion, India has announced plans to reopen 100 coal mines, but it also installed 3 new gigawatts of solar infrastructure – the equivalent of a fifth of the UK’s entire solar power capacity – in the first quarter of this year.

Thanks for reading. Please share this around and tell us what we’ve missed. News tips and story ideas are welcome. Email them to sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Paul Caruana Galizia
@pcaruanagalizia

With additional reporting by Giles Whittell and Phoebe Davis.

Photographs Getty Images


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