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Leader comment: Suspect Rwanda policy, and Rushdie attack

19 August 2022

COMPARE and contrast. On 15 June, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, told the House of Commons: “It has saddened me, Madam Deputy Speaker, to see Rwanda so terribly misrepresented and traduced in recent weeks. . . Rwanda, Madam Deputy Speaker, is a safe and secure country with an outstanding track record of supporting asylum-seekers. And, indeed, we are proud that we are working together; proud that the UK is investing in Rwanda and helping that great country to thrive.” The “usual suspects”, she said, had set out to thwart “the will of the British people”, but, she said, “This Government will not be deterred from doing the right thing.”

A High Court hearing, prompted by challenges to the policy of exporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda, heard this week that a Foreign Office official had warned Ms Patel that in Rwanda: “There are state control, security, surveillance structures from the national level down to [households]. Political opposition is not tolerated and arbitrary detention, torture and even killings are accepted methods of enforcing control too.” It was one of a series of internal memos advising against the scheme, including one sent on 12 April, the day before the memorandum was signed in Kigali, that “fraud risk is very high.” The £120 million that the UK Government promised Rwanda has already been paid in full. No asylum-seekers have yet been sent, after legal challenges to the scheme. Thus “the usual suspects” include not just refugee charities, but also the two Archbishops and 23 bishops who wrote to The Times: “This policy should shame us as a nation” (News, 17 June); and not only the Prince of Wales, who reportedly called the policy “appalling”, but also government officials.

When Captain Renault orders his underling to “round up the usual suspects” in Casablanca, it is to divert attention away from the true culprit of a crime. The revelations in the High Court are making it increasingly clear who this is.


Rushdie attack

IN THE Lambeth Conference plenary on the topic of other faiths, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, speaking with the weight of someone whose family had suffered violent persecution, warned church leaders not to ignore “the darker side” of other faiths when seeking to be good neighbours (News, 5 August). That dark side was very apparent in the attack on Salman Rushdie in New York State last week. The alleged attacker has not spoken publicly of his motivation, but the Muslim leaders of Iran described the attack as “divine retribution”. Christianity has, of course, indulged its darker side through history, but there is now a general belief in divine restitution. Fortunately, there are many adherents of Islam and other faiths who believe the same, and who deserve support.

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