Rwanda Plan: Capitalism Offers No Asylum

On 23 April the ‘Safety of Rwanda’ bill was passed in the House of Lords giving the go ahead for the British state to deport any and all asylum seekers who come to the UK to Rwanda for claims processing. When asked on BBC Question Time about what would happen to Congolese refugees fleeing the war with Rwanda, the Tory crime and policing minister said people from Rwanda would not be sent back, apparently confusing the two countries. When this was pointed out he said Congo is not Rwanda and didn’t seem to understand what the problem was.(1) The ruling class does not care; humans are economic units for the production of value and regulating their movements accordingly is far more important than protecting their lives.

The ‘Safety of Rwanda’

The ‘Rwanda Plan’, as it has been dubbed, was first put forward in 2022 under the Johnson government proclaiming Rwanda as a safe place in need of migrants despite its poor human rights record and current occupation of a neighbouring country. It caused the government a problem as on 14 June, shortly before the first flight was to take off, the European Court of Human Rights passed an injunction to stop it. In March 2023 the ‘Illegal Immigration Bill’ was introduced stating the Home Secretary has a duty to deport those who arrived to the UK immediately to another safe country. Consequently, in November 2023 the UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Rwanda policy unlawful as there had not been, nor has there been since, sufficient investigation into whether or not Rwanda is a safe country for refugees, who are often at risk of having improperly assessed claims or being deported again to the country they were fleeing from to begin with. Home Secretary James Cleverly travelled to Rwanda on 5 December 2023 to sign a new treaty between the two countries, introducing the ‘Safety of Rwanda’ bill two days later and declaring Rwanda a safe country, overruling the Supreme Court decision. It also explicitly states that “every decision-maker [i.e. anyone with any authority over the lives of these asylums seekers, including courts or tribunals] must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country” and allows for any relevant parts of the Human Rights Act to be “disapplied”, the power of bourgeois law thus christening Rwanda as ‘safe’ – albeit safe for the purpose of discarding the most desperate members of our society. The bill also states explicitly that the government will ignore any rulings from the European Court of Human Rights. Two years and three Prime Ministers after being proposed, the bill has been passed and the first flights were originally set to depart early this summer. Those arguing against the bill on the basis of ‘rights’ are wasting their time. As we have seen, ‘rights’ are not inalienable, they are granted and withdrawn by the ruling class as it suits them and to meet the demands of capital, which are always revealed to be for the most efficient exploitation of labour. Only the united working class through its seizure of political power, as expressed by the rule of workers' councils, can end its wretched condition as exploitable resources for the growth of capital, passed around and traded amongst the ruling class like any other commodity.


Mass arrests of refugees earmarked for deportation have begun with police raiding homes, apartments and hotel rooms asylum seekers are living in. In response several have gone underground with the government reporting it has located 2,143 of the 5,700 people they are hunting amid speculation many are attempting to flee across the Northern Ireland border. Human rights groups, charities and unions have responded, calling the mass arrests inhumane and are organising legal resistance. Local communities and activist groups have also been taking direct action to prevent arrests, such as in Peckham where the Anti Raids Network blocked coaches taking asylum seekers to the prison barge Bibby Stockholm, forcing the coaches to leave without any asylum seekers on board.(2) While in some local contexts activist resistance has been effective in at least delaying deportations, this is purely defensive and does not address the deeper issue.

Divide and Conquer

The international bourgeoisie is keenly aware that the working class is helpless without unity, and drums up nationalist sentiment to weaken working class movements. It is also no accident the ‘Rwanda Plan’ was launched in advance of local elections and rumours of a general election: playing the immigration card is always a last resort of despairing Conservative (and Labour!) regimes. As a result of numerous controversies combined with rising working class discontent against the poor handling of the pandemic and cost of living crisis (resulting in a major strike wave in 2022/3)(3), the Conservative government is under a lot of pressure from its voters to prove it is capable of keeping the country together. As the crisis intensifies and the world charges headlong into global war, the ruling class as a whole must search for means to bring the working class into complicity and paralyse its movement. By isolating the class along racial and national lines the ruling class is free to experiment with all kinds of technology and draconian political schemes on sections it has isolated and, when necessary, will not hesitate to deploy them against their ‘own people’ should they dare rebel against further austerity, exploitation or conscription.

The working class has no property to defend. The collapse of living standards felt more or less acutely by the working class across the globe is being met by the only solution the state can rely on, concentrating more and more misery on a growing surplus population while grinding down the remaining ‘productive’ sections of our class. Shifting demographics and nativist anxieties may obscure this fact, but the working class in all countries is being bled by the same common oppressor and only our united action can fight back against it. We must not only do what we can do protect the lives and wellbeing of our fellow workers but, as communists, make every possible effort to escalate these struggles outside of the narrow confines of bourgeois legalism and activist protest movements and into a genuinely proletarian movement, one that can sweep away the inhuman domination of capital and the state violence that represents it to replace it with a system which can actually serve our needs instead of escalating death and repression. The only way to permanently stop the inhuman treatment of the world’s dispossessed is the unity of the dispossessed class, the proletariat. We are international and we have a world to win.

Communist Workers’ Organisation


Image: UK Government (CC BY 2.0 DEED),



(3) Read our analysis on the 2023 strike wave

Friday, May 10, 2024