The Home Office has stated that sending asylum seekers to Rwanda was not a penalty but a deterrent, and deportation would be on a case-by-case basis with monitoring in place. It acknowledged that LGBT+ people in Rwanda face ill-treatment. The Central Africa director of Human Rights Watch said the government’s safety assessment was ‘not grounded in reality’ and accused Rwanda of having an ‘abysmal record’ on refugee rights.
An analysis (based on Home Office modelling) obtained by The Times compared the Rwanda plan with the number of people the UK deported when it was part of the EU and regulations applied the same rules to decide who would be eligible for removal. This suggested that only 300 asylum seekers would be deported to Rwanda each year. However, the Home Office said it did not recognise the data and insisted there would be no cap.
According to the Prime Minister, 50 migrants had been given two weeks to produce legal representation or face removal to Rwanda. He also referred to ‘leftie lawyers’ threatening ‘a blizzard of lawsuits to prevent his plan to break the business model of people-smuggling gangs’. He went on ‘there’s going to be a lot of legal opposition from the types of firms that for a long time have been taking taxpayers money to mount these sorts of cases, and to thwart the will of the people, the will of Parliament….they will be opposed…on absolutely specious grounds.’
The first legal action against the scheme has been launched, based on an Iranian asylum seeker who claims he would face extreme hardship if sent to Rwanda. The basis for the challenge is that the scheme breaches international law, the UN refugee convention, and data protection laws.
A representative of Freedom from Torture telephoned various airlines to ask if they would be transporting refugees to Rwanda. Most declined to respond. There is a video of these calls on rb.gy/e2nsgs.
At the time of writing, Priti Patel has announced that the first deportation flight to Rwanda carrying people who arrived in the UK without authorisation is scheduled to leave on 14 June. Those who will be removed are already in detention, and they are said to include people from Syria, Afghanistan, Chad, Iraq and Egypt.
People fleeing Afghanistan made up almost a quarter of the migrants crossing the English Channel in the first quarter of this year. Many of these will have justifiable reasons for fleeing Afghanistan, but no ‘legal’ routes to safety in the UK. They, too, will be eligible for the Rwanda offshoring scheme.