Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Britain could send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda to be resettled, in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants across the Channel.

Ian Kysel, professor of law at Cornell Law School, is a founder and director of the International Migrants Bill of Rights Initiative.

Kysel says:

“The announcement is the latest retrograde move in a race to the bottom among states seeking to externalize border control and sidestep duties under the very human rights treaties they negotiated in the middle of the 20th century. Countries around the world have for decades sought to develop increasingly strained legal fictions to avoid protecting the rights of all migrants. 

“These moves are often driven by xenophobic impulses and overstated fears of large numbers of human beings coming to seek protection. Fortunately, recent weeks have shown other governments demonstrating and promising just the opposite – the ability of states to accommodate millions fleeing harm in Ukraine, seeking safety and security and affirming their rights to leave any country including their own. Doubtless, activists, litigators and others committed to the rule of law will again push back against border externalization and try to compel the U.K. and other governments to uphold the rights of all migrants.”


Rachel Beatty Riedl, director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University, is an expert on governance and politics with a regional focus in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Riedl says:

“The vast majority of refugees are already located in the Global South, largely in countries neighboring conflict. This is the case in Rwanda, which currently hosts well over 100,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. The argument that the Global North – and here the U.K. in particular – can’t host refugees and asylum seekers through their legal claims process is not based on actual capacity. It is based on a lack of political will to implement the foundational principles of human rights, to provide protection to people fleeing in search of refuge.”