Visiting Rwanda used to be a choice taken up by very few, but not any longer. As the intended destination for channel crossing refugees and migrants it raises uncomfortable resonance of the Nazi plan for Jewish “resettlement “in Madagascar in the 1930s. Whilst war remains a capitalist compulsion, fleeing from it is now a crime.
The vindictiveness and hypocrisy of this ‘reasonable’ proposal is exposed in the government’s own words and doublethink: On the one hand they will be welcomed and encouraged to resettle there as if their reason for leaving their home countries was just a quality life choice. Of course it wasn’t they fled famine, disaster and war, usually with a western price tag on it. On the other, at the same time, Patel, ironically the daughter of refugees made unwelcome in Africa, describes this great opportunity as likely to prove a very effective deterrent. Poison chalice indeed. Legal challenges are sure to follow but the law won’t judge the morality of this sinister solution.
Those fleeing war will be sent to one of Central Africa’s great military powers that was responsible for driving the second Congo War aka The Great War of Africa, involving seven African states and leading to over 5 million deaths. The region itself is already a tented urbanisation of refugee camps and its politics still driven by the legacy of greed and slaughter. The potential for increasing the psychological trauma of those refugees detained in camps in a traumatised society can only be imagined. For Rwanda the financial gain of UK government blood money is clearly a key motive, for the UK it’s naked racism and xenophobia.
Having worked with refugees for 30 years I can say I have never met a bogus asylum seeker, just bogus arguments against migration and refugee rights. People don’t abandon hearth and home, their favourite foods, the smell of their towns and fields, their traditions, and their loved ones on a whim. Abandoning all, risking life and limb, is never done lightly and those who have not faced it (unlike Patel’s family) cannot imagine it’s terrors.
Refugees and migrants without exception have good reason to believe that life and survival will be better than from where they fled. Their journeys, as often in their lives before, are punctuated by exploitation, brutality, and violence.
UK refugee agencies estimate that 70% of those who are already in the UK are suffering some degree of trauma and PTSD as a result of their experiences in their home countries or of their flight and migration itself. The government’s proposal is the opposite of humanity and compassion in the face of this suffering – perhaps hardly surprising, given the likelihood that it either armed or trained those who made them flee or contributed to making their land uninhabitable.
The unpalatable reality is the solution found would’ve been completely different had they been white. Notwithstanding the horror of the Ukraine war and the urgent need to support and respond to Ukrainians moving west, the brutal ethnic calculations are clear. Capitalism and its state agents make laws and cause war for control, wealth, and power. If the countless millions like us without wealth and power die, we are either heroes or statistics depending on how the state needs to use our bodies. It is clear that if we survive, we are an inconvenient truth, a blight on the fantasy of justice and freedom. One way or the other we see in the struggle of these refugees, all refugees, the fate that could await us all unless we mobilise to fight not just for them, but for ourselves and our class.