Is the Rwanda Deportation Policy Popular?
The grounded Rwanda deportation flight EC-LZO Boeing 767 at Boscombe Down Air Base, which was half an hour a way from departing with four aslyum seekers aboard last Tuesday. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
As a policy the Government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda doesn’t have much going for it. The ethics of forcibly sending people who’ve committed no crime to a third country they don’t know, and has a poor human rights record, have been condemned by everyone from the UN to the Prince of Wales. There is no sign as yet that it will act as a deterrent against small boats, with around 450 asylum seekers crossing the channel the day the first flight was due to leave. There is a good chance it will be found to be illegal by either the UK or European courts. Even if it isn’t it’s incredibly expensive.
But as a political campaigning tool it may be more useful to the Government. That’s certainly the hope in Downing Street. They believe they’ve hit on a powerful “wedge issue” that motivates their base and allows them to portray their opponents in Parliament, the media, and wider “elite” institutions, as the enemy within. As one Minister told The Times “The Rwanda thing is totemic, it’s a dividing line par excellence.”
It’s a plausible hypothesis. A similar campaign against small boats was very electorally successful for the Liberals in Australia for many years – even if in practice it led to grotesque human rights abuses. The broader issue of immigration served as the primary trigger of UKIP’s rise to prominence from 2005-2015, and ultimately the Leave campaign’s victory in the EU referendum.
So the questions of whether it actually is a popular policy, and which voter groups like the idea, matters. A number of polls were run when the policy was announced, and there was another round in the past week as the issue went back to the top of the news agenda. These allow us to get a sense of levels of support, and how this has changed over time.
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