Celebrities have united against the Government’s plan to deport people to Rwanda blasting their decision to use the African nation as a “dumping ground” for refugees.
Stars including actors Olivia Colman, Sir Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and England footballer Anita Asante wrote an open letter organised by Together With Refugees.
Many of the signatories have heritage from African Commonwealth countries, including the actress Sophie Okonedo, and actors Martins Imhangbe and Lucian Msamati.
Addressed to Commonwealth Leaders, it read: “The Commonwealth cannot – must not – stay silent on this offensive scheme. Your voices would be a crucial and powerful force to help bring it to an end.”
The letter continued: “The prospect of being transported to Rwanda, and African countries like it, is enough to put off even the most desperate people fleeing war and persecution from coming to the UK.
“This tells us much about the British government’s colonial and insulting view of Africa, as a place that is no better than a dumping ground for things – in this case people – it considers a problem.”
“This ill-planned scheme is not only a scandalous affront to Africa, but also to the Commonwealth, to international law and to the rest of the world – as well as the principle of sharing responsibility to provide protection to refugees across all countries. Many in the UK are taking a stand.”
The letter came as Boris Johnson refused to give a figure by which Channel crossings need to come down before it is known the Rwanda migrant policy has worked.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I’m not going to give you a figure.”
He said the “humane policy” is about “breaking the business model of those who criminally abuse and cheat people crossing the Channel in unseaworthy vessels”.
The widely-criticised scheme is currently in legal limbo – the first flight was halted after an interim injunction from the European Court of Human Rights, pending a decision on the legality of the scheme in the UK courts.
It emerged on Thursday that Britain has made payments to Rwanda under the £120 million asylum scheme.