Nicola Sturgeon has said plans to process some asylum seekers in Rwanda are “despicable”, while Humza Yousaf has accused the UK Government of being institutionally racist.
Home Secretary Priti Patel signed a deal with the African nation on Thursday which would see those who cross the English Channel in small boats flown to Rwanda to have their claims processed.
Refugee charities and Labour have already condemned the plan, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper saying it is “unworkable, unethical and extortionate”.
Addressing the proposals on Twitter, Scottish First Minister Ms Sturgeon said: “A despicable policy on its own terms.
“But add the fact that it’s being set out today to distract from #partygate and you see the utter moral bankruptcy of this Tory government laid bare. Shameful.”
Scottish Health Secretary Mr Yousaf tweeted: “UK Govt rightly provides asylum and refuge to Ukrainians fleeing war, but wants to send others seeking asylum thousands of miles away to Rwanda for ‘processing’ – and you still question whether this heartless Tory Govt is institutionally racist?”
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, described the UK Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as “evil”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s just chilling, absolutely chilling, to think that people who are coming here for a whole host of reasons – vulnerable people – are going to be taken all the way to Africa to be processed.
“This is not the mark of a civilised society. It’s evil.
“It just turns my stomach to see that our Government acting in our name can behave in such a way, and I think a lot of people are going to be quite aghast.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also attacked the plans.
He tweeted on Wednesday night: “This is horrific. A dog whistle to the hard right from a Tory government in its death throes.”
Speaking during a press conference in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Thursday, Home Secretary Ms Patel said the agreement complies with international law.
She said the asylum system is “collapsing under a combination of real humanitarian crises and evil people smugglers”.
“The British people are fair and generous when it comes to helping those in need, but the persistent circumventing of our laws and immigration rules, and the reality of the system that is open to game and criminal exploitation, has eroded public support for Britain’s asylum system and those that genuinely need access to it,” she said.
“Putting evil people smugglers out of business is a moral imperative.
“It requires us to use every tool at our disposal and also to find new solutions.”