July 2022 Newsletter Newsletter

Asylum Seekers and Deportations to Rwanda

The following sections provide more information about the proposals to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, with the government committed to scheduling another flight. It intends to issue more removal notices than seats in the plane in the hope that it can take off with some people on board.  


28,000 migrants and refugees crossed the English Channel in 2021. Of these, 7 in 10 were found to be genuine asylum seekers. Furthermore, of those initially rejected who went on to appeal about half won their case. The number of forced deportations and voluntary departures of failed asylum seekers hit a record low that year – at about one-20th of the peak in 2005. We can conclude from this that most of those targeted for deportation to Rwanda are, in fact, genuine asylum seekers.  

Who was served with a removal notice?

Up to 130 people were notified that they could be removed, including Afghans, Sudanese, Syrians, Iranians, Egyptians as well as Iraqi, Pakistani, Albanian, Algerian, Chadian, Eritrean, Turkish and Vietnamese people. Care4Calais also says that 70 percent of those notified of their removal were victims of trafficking and torture, yet government policy subjected them to further trauma. The government is now intent on closing what it sees as a legal ‘loophole’ which allows migrants to avoid deportation by claiming they are the victims of modern slavery. Care4Calais says there is no doubt this policy is causing suffering; people commonly talk of killing themselves in detention centres. It also says they met seven boys under 18 who had been given notices and indicated a disturbing trend of targeting Sudanese – fully one third of the cases they are working with.

Was there an alternative?

The French government offered to allow the UK to process claims in France. This would have met the government’s claim that their policy was based on wanting to save lives and to protect those crossing the Channel from using people smugglers. This opportunity was rejected in favour of deportation to Rwanda. Care4Calais argues that if the government truly wanted to stop people smugglers and save lives, they could set up resettlement schemes which would give refugees visas to cross the Channel in a similar way to Ukrainians. Ukrainians have not had to pay people smugglers or clamber into small boats. With these visas, refugees could then claim asylum on arrival in the UK, and we would know exactly who is arriving. This would put people smugglers out of business overnight. 

Care4Calais say the Rwanda policy is not about numbers of arrivals: between Ukrainians (70,000 have entered the UK this year) and people from Hong Kong (about 114,000 have come to the UK recently), the UK is taking ten years’-worth of Channel refugees in one year. And it is not because the refugees are illegal, either. As noted above, there is a mountain of evidence that the majority of Channel migrants are genuine refugees.

The Continuing Criticism

The United Nations High Commissioner has several concerns about the deportations to Rwanda: a lack of legal representation and interpreters there, difficulties in appealing, and discrimination. At least 287,000 Rwandans live outside the country, many having fled from the regime of President Kagame. The legal affairs officer of the Rwanda National Congress, a party formed in exile to oppose Kagame, described the deal as ‘immoral, unethical and illegal.’ The most senior clergy of the Church of England have described the policy as immoral. In a letter to The Times the bishops said ‘this policy should shame us as a nation…because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries.’