It was one of those ideas which seemed so far-fetched you wondered if you heard it right: that Britain would get rid of its asylum seekers by sending them off to Africa. Nonsense, surely.
Not so. Home Secretary Priti Patel proceeded to announce a £120 million pilot scheme under which people deemed to have entered the UK unlawfully since January would be flown to Rwanda, where they would be allowed to apply for the right to settle.
The government said the first flights could begin within weeks, initially focusing on single men who crossed the English Channel from France illegally, usually in small boats.
Deportees from the UK would stay in a hostel in Rwanda while their claims were processed, a process which would take about three months.
They would be subject to Rwandan immigration rules, but would be allowed to leave the property and move around freely.
Once people here realised the government was serious, there was an explosion of outrage, with more than 160 charities, campaign groups and individuals, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, denouncing the scheme and demanding that it be scrapped.
The United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, condemned Priti’s plan as a breach of international law and an unacceptable attempt to shift responsibility for refugees arriving on British shores.
A spokesperson noted that Israel had attempted to send Eritrean and Sudanese refugees to Rwanda, but “they simply left the country and started the process all over again”.
Behind the scheme is the government’s hope that it will deter the increasing numbers of would-be asylum-seekers from crossing the Channel after payment of large sums to people smugglers.
Whereas some 2,000 persons crossed illegally in 2019, the figure for 2020 was 8,404, soaring to 28,526 last year.
These are figures that anger the inhabitants of coastal towns and villages where refugees land or are brought ashore by Royal Navy patrols.
On several occasions, local people have formed lines and shouted abuse at the refugees as they were brought ashore and sent to documentation centres and barracks for accommodation.
The opposition Labour Party described the Rwanda scheme as “unworkable and unethical” and argued that the cost would be £30,000 per refugee flown to Africa.
Shadow Justice Minister Ellie Reeves said the government should instead work more closely with France to tackle trafficking gangs.
Importantly, would it work?
Well, a BBC reporter talked to a group of refugees in Dunkirk, France, who were preparing to make the hazardous sea journey to Britain.
Not one said the scheme would prevent them from trying to cross the Channel to the UK.
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There are no starving people in the streets and shops and stores are as busy as ever, but make no mistake, the cost of living here is rising and there is evidence every day.
A charity which serves free meals from supermarket food that would otherwise be thrown out says demand has almost doubled since the beginning of the year.
FoodCycle, which operates in the Northeast of England, one of the country’s most deprived regions, said it is providing 1,200 no-cost meals per week and needs more volunteer helpers to cope with the demand.
Each individual who appears at any of FoodCycle’s seven outlets receives a three-course meal plus a bag of food to take home.
Volunteer Jane Hayes said, “People are really worried. Most of those who come here are on relatively low incomes or have health issues and the cost of living is a massive thing. Quite a lot are working and they still can’t afford to feed their families.”
Another sign of the times: people are cancelling streaming services such as Netflix, Disney and Amazon Prime to meet food and energy bills instead.
The market research firm Kantar said a total of 1.5 million such services were dropped in the first three months of 2022 for “money saving” reasons.
A spokesman said, “The evidence suggests that British households are proactively looking for ways to save by prioritising where and how their disposable income is spent.”
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A joke for car lovers: Joe decided the entrance to his house needed improvement, so he called a local firm of house-painters and asked them to paint his porch. He then went off to work.
A few hours later, the painters’ foreman called him and said they had enjoyed painting his car, but by the way, it wasn’t a Porsche.
A joke for cat lovers: Mary was astounded when she saw her cousin’s cat playing chess.
“Your cat must be super-intelligent to know how to play chess,” she said.
“Not really,” said the cousin, “he’s just lost three games in a row.”
A joke for drinkers: A little girl asked her father, “Daddy what is an alcoholic?”
Father: “Do you see those four trees? An alcoholic would see eight trees.”
Daughter: “But Daddy, there are only two trees.”