Sun May 19, 2024
May 19, 2024

UK Rwanda deportations & Congo

UK Government plans refugees deportation to a police state and uses Rwandan military influence in Congo.

By Martin Ralph – ISL

British imperialist policy of deporting refugees and robbing Africa combines in Rwanda and the east African region. British governments, of all types, always give themselves the “right” to move immigrants to any place, as under slavery this oppressor nation transported African people for their colonial economic interests. Today, they intend to transport African and other immigrants on a one-way ticket to Rwanda.

Rwanda is not a ‘safe’ country for refugees as this government claims, it is a police state that disappears or kills any opposition. The UK government wants to remove refugees en-masse whilst bribing Rwanda in policy to take vast resources from the region.

Rwanda is situated at the convergence of the African Great Lakes region and east Africa, bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and the DRC. This area is of immense interest to US and European imperialist powers and their multinationals in competition for African resources. Rwanda is an important base from which an army is funded inside the Congo, the M23.

Hostile environment

Tory leaders refer to refugees’ desperate, dangerous journeys to find safety and a living as an “invasion” or “swarms”. Such offensive and dehumanising language by representatives of a powerful ruling class indicates their determination to increase the hostile environment against those who are super-exploited in their own country and over-exploited in the UK. This represents more than a war of words, but an actual war against refugees and African countries, against indigenous populations, workers and farmers for minerals and geopolitical reasons.

The UK government claim that Britain has always been a haven of protection and sanctuary for people fleeing war and persecution. The government announcement and the High Court ruling in December 2022 on immigration policy is a continuation of decades of grotesque immigration policy that is increasingly brutal, inhumane and unjust and forms the current hostile environment. Fundamental to immigration policy is the criminalisation of people fleeing war and persecution to seek asylum in the UK and this is happily reinforced and weaponised by a supine media.

The High Court judgement, legitimising the mass deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, went against the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the policy carried “a real risk of irreversible harm”, and a report in British Medical Journal which opposes the policy saying it is “unconscionable on medical, ethical and humanitarian grounds”. The policy follows a £140 million deal in April 2022, as home secretary Suella Braverman proudly announced the government’s intention to promptly begin deportations.

Opposition to the deportation plan came from the Home Office workers through the Public and Commercials services union (PCS) and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action who will appeal the judgement.

The government have made ‘deterrence’ the focus of their rhetoric; in response, Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union, said “The policy isn’t a deterrent. The only way to protect human life and prevent people from drowning in the Channel is to give them safe passage. PCS will continue our campaign to secure it.[i]

The policy declares that anyone who arrives in the UK on a small boat or by unauthorised routes will be detained and then deported either back to where they fled from or to a third country, specifically Rwanda, whilst aiming to strike Rwanda-style deals with other countries thus closing down access to asylum in the UK putting people at risk and in breach of the Refugee Convention.

The High Court judgement (19 December 2022) followed prime minister Rishi Sunak’s announcement (13 December 2022), who plans to:

  • Increase immigration raids and step-up efforts to deport people to Albania;
  • Unify responses to small boats into a single Small Boats Operational Command force;
  • Raise the threshold of proof for survivors of modern slavery and potentially return Albanian survivors to Albania;
  • Introduce new legislation to make unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here;
  • House asylum seekers in cheaper institutional accommodations such as former holiday camps and student halls.

Those making the legal challenge say that Rwanda is not a safe country although it is classified as such by the government. We agree and add that no country should be used for transporting refugees whether it is safe or not. Such schemes that the Australian government implemented are never safe.

The High court judges also ruled that the Home Office failed to consider the personal circumstances of the eight individuals who faced removal earlier this year. So, the government’s hope of a swift removal of anyone coming to the UK via a small boat will not be achieved.

Before Rwanda, the Windrush scandal erupted. The government wants to appease its xenophobic base and scapegoat immigrants, whether they are newly arrived or have lived and worked in Britain for over 70 years, for the economic crisis, failing public services, chronic housing problems, and low benefits and wages. The refugee crisis that imperialism creates across the world aims to divide workers’ struggles. Deportation, transportation and imprisonment are on the Tory agenda, workers must fight this policy of divide and rule.

Is Rwanda a safe country?

The British government wants to use Rwanda for its grotesque policy of transportation and has already paid £140 million to Rwanda. They argue ‘we’ cannot afford money for millions of workers in Britain, yet they provide plenty to finance the interests of its multinationals in Africa and as a consequence rape, dismemberment and killing.

The most recent report on Rwanda by Human Rights Watch says, “The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) continued to exert total control over political space in Rwanda in 2019.”[ii]

President Paul Kagame and government officials regularly threaten those who criticise the government or the RPF. “Several opposition members and one journalist disappeared or were found dead in mysterious circumstances.” Ibid. Various human rights organisations claim that arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial detention facilities continue.

In other words, the RPF heads a police state commanded by Paul Kagame. Israel, the UK and other governments conduct business with this dictatorship because of its control of the social struggle in the Great Lakes, in the service of North American and European imperialism and its transnational companies that steal ores for their industries.

Britain’s role is to strengthen relations with Rwanda in order to rob the DRC of ores which can only be done through violence and the creation of more displaced people and refugees in Africa.

This is a country which Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, says is a safe country to deport refugees whilst knowing this to be false as this policy will create more violence in the region. We call on the British working class and its organisations to expose this unfolding violent crime against the DRC and refugees from Britain.

US and EU imperialism wants the DRC ores

DRC has important reserves of many minerals including gold, coltan (for electronic devices), cobalt (the world’s largest producer), diamonds, cassiterite (the chief source of tin), copper (Africa’s biggest exporter), cocoa, timber (forests are among the largest in Africa), whilst oil and charcoal and hydroelectric resources make up about one-eighth of global capacity and perhaps half of Africa’s potential capacity. It is the resource-rich heart of Africa; the US government estimates there are $25 trillion in mineral reserves.

Recently there was a Russia-DRC summit that indicated Russia getting heavily involved in mining in the area. China controls 70% of the mines in DRC. A Congolese mining belt running along its borders with Uganda and Rwanda holds vast amounts of gold and some of the world’s largest deposits of coltan and ore, mined by hand, that is key for manufacturing electronic devices.

In July there was a strong offensive in eastern Congo by the Rwandan M23 armed group. This conflict has displaced 170,000 people since the M23 resurfaced late last year, almost a decade after a peace deal was agreed upon – yet a country supporting the war in Congo that displaced 170,000 is claimed to care for immigrants transported from the UK on a one-way ticket!

In the late 1990s, Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo, spurring a string of wars that sucked in several African countries and became known as “Africa’s World War”. Between 1998 and 2008, about 5.4mn people were killed in conflicts in eastern DRC. Many armed militias were involved each seeking access to resources. The M23 led a rebellion in 2012 but was defeated by Congolese and UN troops, leading to a peace agreement in 2013. After fraught and patchy implementation, the armed group resurfaced late last year.

According to a UN expert report, “Rwanda’s military intervened to “reinforce” the M23 as well as to combat the FDLR — a descendant of Rwandan Hutu extremist groups that carried out the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.

Rwanda provided troop reinforcements to the M23″ for specific operations, in particular when these were aimed at seizing strategic towns and areas, the report added.[iii]

DRC President Félix Tshisekedi said that “Rwanda is fighting in the DRC under the guise of the M23, which was defeated in 2013,” as Rwandan soldiers were captured in the DRC, “Its latest emergence is due to the Rwandan Defence Force, which is hiding behind the M23.[iv]

The M23 — which Congolese officials, local people and analysts accuse of being backed by Rwanda — resumed fighting in November 2021 and has since been waging a brutal offensive in the resource-rich, conflict-ridden eastern Congo, causing deaths and mass displacements. More than 355,000 Congolese have fled their homes so far this year in 2022, according to the UN, pushing the number of those displaced in DRC due to overlapping conflicts to more than 5.5mn this year — the largest recorded humanitarian crisis of its kind in Africa.” Ibid

Rwanda’s historical support for a range of insurgencies in the eastern DRC feeds widespread suspicion among Congolese about its intentions. Rumours that a Rwandan ‘crime-fighting’ force may deploy in Goma, Congo’s sprawling commercial hub near the Rwandan border, have already sparked deadly protests in the city.

Economic rivalries are part of the reason for the enmity between Rwanda and Uganda. The two have long vied for control of the eastern DRC’s natural resources. As much as 90 per cent of Congo’s gold is smuggled to neighbouring countries with the bulk arriving in Rwanda and Uganda. Both countries list gold among their biggest foreign exchange earners, though neither produces much. Besides significant deposits of gold and other minerals, the eastern DRC also has oil, notably under Lake Albert, which spans the Uganda-DRC border.

In February, French company TotalEnergies approved a $10 billion oil project on Uganda’s side of the lake that will turn the country into a significant energy producer. Aside from technical difficulties, squabbling over the route of a pipeline to an East African port has delayed the project for years. (The company also has a memorandum of understanding with Rwanda to help develop its energy sector.)

With both Uganda and Rwanda relying on access to the eastern DRC to bolster their economies, Tshisekedi faces a difficult balancing act. A June 2021 agreement between Tshisekedi and Kagame giving a Rwandan company the right to refine gold produced in Congo reportedly irritated Kampala; that Tshisekedi went along with the deal and also surprised many Congolese. For his part, Kagame is said to be upset about a massive Ugandan road project in the eastern DRC that aims to open trade routes to three eastern Congolese cities and thus provide alternatives to the Gatuna/Katuna crossing.[v]

Oppose the re-colonialisation of Africa

Starmer’s speech to the CBI – organisation of big British business – in November 2022 said that Labour is “Not just a pro-business party but a party that is proud of being pro-business.” And added that Labour’s “backing private enterprise is the only way Britain pays its way in the world.”[vi] So unmistakably pro-imperialist, without using the word.  And Labour’s policy is to use immigrants as commodities to be included and expelled, depending on the country’s balance sheet.

And what about his Labour cabinet? Rachel Reeves criticised the government for not deporting enough people. Yvette Cooper promised Labour would deal with Channel crossings through more security. They have talked about electronically tagging people waiting for the processing of their asylum applications, “fast-track processing” for people arriving “by small boats” from “safe countries.”[vii]

Labour criticised the Tory Rwanda policy but agree with deporting immigrants. This policy is very old. In 2003 the then-home secretary David Blunkett proposed to send all asylum seekers to processing centres outside the EU.[viii] Blunkett also proposed in 2003 to strip rejected asylum seekers of benefits and send their children into care. Racist immigration policies are ingrained inside the Labour establishment.

We think that it is essential for all unions and social movements to oppose and defeat the Rwanda plan and all such policies, by mobilising on the streets. It is a demand that the rising strike wave must take on board. We must welcome all immigrants, help to organise them in the communities and unions, defeat attempts at any form of expulsion from the UK and bring them into a great strike movement that must build a general strike to defeat Tory policies. No One is Illegal has been adopted by some unions let’s make it into a mass slogan and demand papers for all.

The British government, an imperialist government, seeks to help the multinationals rob the Congo, while at the same privatising the NHS and destroying the welfare state. We must oppose the brutal exploitation by the British government and all imperialist robbery of the Congo.

All refugees welcome –End the world’s detention centres

No One is illegal – status for all

End the robbery of Africa – Imperialism out


[i] https://www.pcs.org.uk/news-events/news/pcs-reaction-high-court-judgement-rwanda-deportation-policy

[ii] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/rwanda

[iii] https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20221222-rwandan-army-conducted-military-operations-in-dr-congo-un-says

[iv] https://www.ft.com/content/26125730-3113-4946-982a-989e2acbe472

[v] https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/great-lakes/democratic-republic-congo-uganda-burundi-rwanda/easing-turmoil-eastern-dr-congo

[vi] https://labour.org.uk/press/keir-starmer-speech-to-the-confederation-of-british-industry-conference-2022/

[vii] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/dec/29/starmer-tories-immigration-humane-no-10-rwanda

[viii] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/apr/22/immigrationandpublicservices.thinktanks

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