• Parmis Vafapour

The Tory Party's Despicable Road to Rwanda

On 15th April, Boris Johnson took to the stage and proudly declared his “innovative” plans to tackle migration. The world around our first-generation immigrant realities shattered as we watched the fifty-three seconds of propaganda feeding the radical right and raising the curtain on their tainted road to Rwanda. Why ship people to another country, and why a country distraught from colonial rule and deeply traumatised by genocide?

In an attempt to understand how all of this would work, I visited the Conservative website to seek some clarity. In a struggle to understand the incessant reassurance but lack of candour on the issue, I was directed to Johnson’s speech as he soft-launched the terrifying tactic. He explained that “those who have arrived illegally since January 1st will now be relocated to Rwanda”. What he describes as an “innovative” approach, was aided by “Brexit freedoms” to disrupt the “business model of gangs”. The discourse of deservingness is brought to light here when he says that “economic migrants taking advantage of the asylum system will not get to stay in the UK while those in genuine need will be properly protected”. “Genuine” and “properly” being subtext for legal and low risk.

Therefore, any migrant now, legal or illegal, will not be allowed in the UK. The move to do this hasn’t been something impulsive; it has been in the works for a while, but being a part of the EU had previously allowed free movement from Europe to the UK. The notion that “Rwanda will have the capacity to resettle tens of thousands of people in the years ahead” is an unsettling continuation of a colonial cycle that displaces bodies. Someone fleeing trauma, abuse and tragedy will now no longer be able to seek the benefit of a community that has also been displaced from the soil of their ancestors, but rather be forced to be settled on the soil of others with no choice.

Watching the video the Conservatives posted on their social media, the propaganda attempting to convince us that their plans are correct and for our benefit made me incredibly uneasy but forced me to run back to the work of Miriam Ticktin (2006). The Associate Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York brings to light the interwoven and often knotted interrelationship between ethics and politics when it comes to immigrants and their status. There is a system at play here where time and time again there is proof that the prefix, 'post', placed in front of the word colonial is not true. There is no world after colonialism, this is a cycle. The nonchalant forced removal of bodies raises the question and concern regarding the trafficking of these bodies. With the final destination being so unclear, how will the movement and repositioning of these humans-made-political-pawns be recorded and ensured safety? The same Prime Minister that previously condemned Rwanda’s government for violating human rights is now reassuring the public that it is “one of the safest countries in the world”.

Johnson and his party believe they are relieving refugees from suffering as they deny them a fair chance at citizenship and take away their choice of home after a horrific journey of displacement by MEDC-funded wars. First the Windrush generation, and now refugees and asylum seekers — when will this government's xenophobic policies halt?

By Parmis Vafapour