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UK approached Botswana to take ‘unwanted immigrants,’ African country's foreign minister says


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Botswana's foreign minister said his country had been approached by the U.K. to take some of what he called their "unwanted immigrants" but declined the request.

Lemogang Kwape's comments in a telephone interview with South African television channel Newzroom Afrika on Tuesday came hours after the British Parliament finally passed legislation allowing a contentious plan to send some migrants to Rwanda to move ahead. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the first flights to Rwanda in East Africa would now leave in July.

UK PLAN TO SEND MIGRANTS TO RWANDA CRITICIZED BY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS AFTER PARLIAMENT BACKS NEW LAW

Kwape didn't say when the U.K. approached the southern African nation of Botswana. It struck its contentious deal with Rwanda in April 2022 and British media has reported that the U.K. government has since held talks with four countries — Armenia, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast and Botswana — over replicating the Rwanda plan.

"I can confirm that indeed the British government through the foreign secretary and the minister for Africa did approach Botswana through diplomatic channels to receive illegal migrants that are destined for the United Kingdom, but we did not accede to their request," Kwape told Newzroom Afrika.

"We have enough problems that we are dealing with, especially immigration problems in our neighborhood," he said. "So I think to receive unwanted immigrants from another country while we are dealing with our own problems in the region will be unfair to Botswana."

Kwape said British authorities had mentioned migrants from Afghanistan as some of those they were proposing might be moved to Botswana but that was the only country mentioned.

"They were not that explicit," Kwape said.

Sunak's plan to stem the tide of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats in the hope of claiming asylum in the U.K. has been beset by court battles and legislative delays and has been fiercely criticized by human rights groups.

The agreement will see migrants who arrive in the U.K. as stowaways or in boats sent to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. If successful, they would stay in Rwanda.

The British government has already paid Rwanda at least $298 million for the asylum plan even though no migrants have been deported yet.

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