Botswana Rejects UK Migration Proposal

Botswana has announced that it has rejected a proposal from the UK to include it in the UK’s controversial migration program, mirroring the one they have established with Rwanda.

What Happened

Botswana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lemogang Kwape, announced that the government of Botswana had recently received a proposal from the UK to sign a migration deal, in a deal that would be akin to the deal the UK now has in force with Rwanda.

The deal would see illegal migrants and illegal asylum seekers deported from the UK to a partner nation. In this case, from the UK to Botswana.

However, Minister Kwape stated that Botswana had rejected the proposal, saying that Botswana could not commit to “hosting people not knowing what the end game would be.”

The deal would be essentially the same as the one the UK has established with Rwanda. So far, Rwanda is the only partner nation the UK has established, despite having announced their migration plan just over two years ago.

Countries have likely been dissuaded from signing similar deals, as the UK’s deal with Rwanda faced a long two years of legal challenges, and run-arounds in the UK’s parliament system.

The necessary legislation to bring the Rwanda plan to fruition just passed in the very early hours of Tuesday morning, when it finally passed the House of Lords after an extended parliamentary session between the UK’s two governmental houses.

The ‘Safety of Rwanda’ bill seeks, among other things, to protect the UK from legal challenges that had grounded flights in the past. It now awaits Royal Assent, before it becomes law.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pictured with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at 10 Downing Street in London, the UK (Photo from Paul Kagame on Instagram).

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that flights to Rwanda will take off in approximately 10-12 weeks, notedly outside of his initial promise that flights would take off within the Spring.

The plan has been controversial as opponents claim it voids the UK’s responsibilities under international law.

Recently, the Times of London reported that the UK was considering four other nations in order to expand the plan. The four nations were claimed to have been Armenia, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Botswana, and Costa Rica.

The expansion of the plan to the nations in question was not confirmed nor denied by the UK, who merely stated that they were “continuing to work with a range of international partners to tackle global illegal migration challenges.”

Costa Rica rather quickly announced that they were not considering any such deal, however, giving a sense of validity to the report. Now with Botswana’s rejection, it appears the list was accurate.

Armenia and Cote d’Ivoire have not released statements on the matter.

Stop the Boats: An Increasing Trend

The Rwanda deportation plan is the flagship of PM Sunak’s ‘Stop the Boats’ initiative, which is meant to deter illegal immigrants from making the journey across the English Channel to the UK in small boats. The journey is very dangerous, and one oftentimes organized by human trafficking groups. Journeys made by migrants to various destinations in Europe regularly result in fatalities after the oftentimes poor quality and overcrowded boats capsize.

PM Sunak claimed in January that the plan was working, stating that small boat entries into the UK were down a third in 2023 from 2022. However, recent large crossings show a drastic increase in small boat crossings, not a decrease.

On Sunday, April 14th, 534 people arrived in the UK across 10 boats. This crossing marked the largest single day crossing so far in 2024, after the previous record had only been set just a few weeks prior on March 20th, which saw 514 migrants enter the UK through small boats.

UK authorities pictured intercepting migrants attempting to make it to the UK (Photo from PA Media).

Crossings over the last few days have brought the total number of small boat entries up to 6,667. This is 28% higher than the same period in 2023, and is seven per cent higher than the same period in 2022, which was the year the UK experienced the highest amount of Channel crossings at 45,774 people, making 2024 projected to be the busiest year on record for Channel crossings if they continue at this rate.

While the government has acknowledged the increase in crossings, they have blamed it on favourable weather conditions, combined with an increase in violence perpetrated by human trafficking groups. Notably, this is after the government had claimed in December that the 2023 fall in crossings was not related to unfavourable weather conditions.

The UK has partnered with France to try and stop some of these small boat crossings, with PM Sunak agreeing to pay France several hundred million pounds over several years to assist with them halting migrants. This is in addition to the already more than 700 million pounds the UK has given France for this same purpose since 2014.

The UK’s partnership with France has recently fallen under scrutiny, as footage and claims surfaced of French police using overly aggressive tactics against migrant boats that some claim put their lives in danger.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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