By now it is known to everyone that Britain is set to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, although the process has been stalled due to legal actions as an injunction could ground the flights. What people are yet to know is – UK Home Office spent tens of thousands of pounds in its efforts of selling the public its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.
According to OpenDemocracy, between £38,000 and £50,500 of taxpayers’ money was spent on Facebook and Instagram ads for the government’s offshoring plan, which Home Office workers themselves have said feels like “taking part in human trafficking”. The Facebook spend is recorded in the platform’s own transparency disclosures.
According to media reports, six advertisements released on social media platforms by the UK Home Office in April were each seen more than a million times. For running these, Home Office paid Facebook was paid £10,000 to £15,000 for one video ad, active from 29 April to 17 May, which claimed that the new plan would “deter dangerous and illegal journeys to the UK and support migrants to build a new & prosperous life”.
Immigration and counterterrorism experts said, the plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda may encourage future illegal migrants to find alternative ways by bypassing authorities to finally reach the United Kingdom, such as trying to hide in things like shipping containers, which could “turn out to be even more dangerous than the boat journeys”.
In the video ad, intercut with footage of a coffee shop and street scenes in Rwanda, UK Home Minister Priti Patel is seen calling the policy a “groundbreaking partnership”, and saying it would save lives.
Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo also appeared on camera to say the country did not discriminate against anyone – likely an attempt to head off warnings from international rights groups about the country’s record on protections for LGBTQ people. But, a community organizer in Rwanda’s capital Kigali told OpenDemocracy that the country had no laws to keep LGBT people safe and warned of discrimination and stigma in work, education, and society.
This means, once sent, asylum seekers, particularly the LGBT people would face dire consequences and suffering.
Another ad of the UK Home Office, which cost up to £9,000 claimed that Priti Patel’s plan of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda would “reduce the cost of UK taxpayers” of housing migrants in the country.
Karen Doyle, a founder of the civil and immigration rights group named Movement For Justice told OpenDemocracy “It’s not serving any purpose other than as a political point-scoring exercise by a desperate, failing, corrupt government”.
According to media reports, while influential right-wing Tory Party think tanks in the United Kingdom with access to ministers have received millions in ‘dark money; donations from the US, several influential MPs of the party, including Stephen Hammonds are maintaining connections with a terror funder in exchange for bribe under the cover of ‘donation’.
In a report, OpenDemocracy said, the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Policy Exchange, the Adam Smith Institute, and the Legatum Institute have raised US$9m from American donors since 2012. Of this, at least US$6 million has been channeled to the UK, according to tax returns filed with US authorities – representing 11 percent of the think tanks’ total UK receipts, with the figure reaching 23 percent for the Adam Smith Institute.
In that time, all five have steadily increased their connections in the heart of government. Between them, they have secured more than 100 meetings with ministers and more than a dozen of their former staff have joined Boris Johnson’s government as special advisers.
According to OpenDemocracy, right-wing think tanks like the IEA have come to play an increasingly influential role in shaping British politics, despite the lack of transparency around their funding.
The IEA has boasted that 14 members of Boris Johnson’s cabinet – including the home secretary Priti Patel, the foreign secretary Liz Truss and the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, are “alumni of IEA initiatives”.
Ministers have recorded 26 meetings with the think tank since 2012, but there may be additional, undeclared private meetings. In 2020, Truss, who was then the secretary of state for trade, failed to declare two meetings with the IEA, arguing that they were made in a personal capacity.
Meanwhile, media reports claimed, that several lawmakers of the British Tory Party, particularly Stephen Hammonds have been shamelessly romancing an individual named Shahid Uddin Khan, an INTERPOL wanted notorious terror funder, criminal, money-launderer, and members of the infamous Dawood Ibrahim cartel.
In 2018, Shahid Uddin Khan fled Bangladesh when several agencies began investigating his crimes, which include tax evasion, terror finance, money laundering, illegal land-grabbing, and numerous forms of criminal activities.
In 2009, Shahid Uddin Khan, along with his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters Shehtaz Munasi Khan, Parisa Pinaz Khan, and Zumana Fiza Khan had entered the United Kingdom with tons of dirty money and had even managed immigrant status under Visa Tier 1, vide VAF No. 511702.
It may be mentioned here that, as per the provisions of Britain’s Visa Tier-1, from September 2015, anyone applying for a visa to set up a business or invest in the UK is required to show proof of police checks for every country they have lived in during the previous 10 years. Otherwise, they were supposed to be banned from entering the United Kingdom under plans for a sweeping crackdown on foreign criminals. Anyone found to have lied about their criminal records was supposed to be banned from Britain for 10 years.
The crackdown began following concerns over rising immigration levels and the government’s inability to deport hundreds of foreign criminals each year, often on “human rights” grounds.
A 2015-figure showed that “net migration” – the difference between migrants arriving and people leaving the United Kingdom stood at 318,000, higher than when David Cameron became Prime Minister and far above his target to reduce the number to the “tens of thousands”.
In the same year, controversial cases had included a Libyan alcoholic who was not deported, despite behaving disgracefully, because he would face severe punishment for consuming alcohol in his homeland.
James Brokenshire, the then Immigration Minister said, “Foreign criminals have no place in the United Kingdom and this scheme will help keep them out.
“Since 2010, checks on foreign nationals going through the UK criminal justice system have increased by more than 1,000 percent, helping ensure more foreign criminals are taken off our streets and making our communities safer.
“But we want to go further still by preventing these people from getting into the country in the first place. Mandatory police certificates will serve as an additional tool to help us achieve this”.
The initial phase of the scheme was supposed to be applied to “Tier 1” visa applicants who are seeking entry as investors or entrepreneurs, and their dependents. These are migrants from outside Europe who want to set up a business, in the case of entrepreneurs, or to invest at least £2 million in the UK, in the case of those using the investor route.
Anyone unable to provide proof of criminal records checks for the past decade will be refused a visa. Records for minor offenses committed a long time ago, will not automatically lead to a visa application being rejected.
However, migrants will be banned for more serious crimes that resulted in lengthy custodial sentences.
But, in Shahid Uddin Khan and his family’s case, there was no police check, despite the fact, that each of them was facing criminal charges in Bangladesh by that time, while in 2019, they were also charged with serious allegations such as terror finance, money-laundering, dealing in counterfeit currency and weapons etcetera. It is assumed that Tory Party MP Stephen Hammonds had helped Shahid Uddin Khan and his family in skipping this mandatory regulation in exchange for ‘donation’, which Khan has openly boasted at a later stage through a video statement.
He also boasted saying, he was never asked either the source of money or how it had been brought into the US as British authorities do not want to know how the potential investors how the money was brought into the country.