News News Open letter regarding the Rwanda asylum scheme We’re devastated to hear of the government’s decision to move forward with offshore processing of asylum seekers. Any offshoring policy not only goes against the principles of the Refugee Convention, but stands in direct opposition to the care and compassion shown by the British people who have opened their homes to those in need of safety. Often referred to as the ‘Australian model’, offshoring has proven itself costly and ineffective at deterring those in desperate need of sanctuary while also making their journey far more difficult. We’ve joined 150+ organisations in calling on the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to scrap their unthinkably cruel plans to ship people seeking refuge to Rwanda. Instead, they must create humane and effective solutions to protect refugees. See the letter below: Dear Prime Minister and Home Secretary, As people with lived experience of the asylum system, refugee and migrants’ rights, anti-trafficking, human rights and civil liberties, access to justice, children’s rights, violence against women and girls’ (VAWG), arts and culture, international development, racial justice, democracy, data privacy and technology rights, disability rights, religious and faith, environment justice, and LGBTQ+ rights organisations and groups, we resolutely oppose the Government’s announcement regarding its plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda. This plan is fundamentally out of step with widespread public support for refugees in the UK. We demand that you scrap this plan, abandon the Nationality and Borders Bill, cease plans to overhaul the Human Rights Act and instead create humane and effective solutions for the protection of refugees. Sending people seeking asylum to Rwanda will cause immense suffering, with the most vulnerable people bearing the brunt. This is a shamefully cruel way to treat people who have come to the UK to seek protection, fleeing persecution or conflict. The UK already accepts proportionately fewer refugees than many other countries. The relatively small numbers of people who seek asylum in the UK do so because they have some connection here – they may have family here, connections to a diasporic community, or English language skills. Many people come from countries that are connected to the UK because of war, invasion or colonisation. To send people seeking asylum to Rwanda is cruel and immoral, and is a breach of the Refugee Convention. The proposals are modelled on the offshore processing policy operated by the Australian government in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, in which resettlement was essentially impossible and which was internationally condemned for resulting in the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of refugees. Rwanda has a poor record on human rights. Its government persecutes independent journalists and opposition parties, and carries out threats and assassinations on people who have fled the country. Only last year at the UN, the UK government itself demanded “investigations into alleged killings, disappearances and torture”. The UK government itself warned about Rwanda’s restrictions on media freedom and civil society as recently as last year. Further, the situation for LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda is so dangerous that people have fled and applied for asylum in the UK. In 2021, the UK granted asylum to four Rwandan refugees – three men and one woman – so it is contradictory to claim that it is safe to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda. This plan will result in more, not fewer, dangerous journeys – leaving more people at risk of being trafficked. Rwanda was previously involved in receiving people removed from Israel under a “voluntary departure” scheme between 2014 and 2017. Around 4,000 people were deported under that scheme to Rwanda and Uganda and almost all are thought to have left the country almost immediately, many attempting onward travel to Europe. Testimonies collected by the International Refugee Rights Initiative found that following their arrival in Rwanda from Israel, “people were being smuggled out of the country by land to Kampala within days.” Moreover, we note the Government’s statement (in its Equality Impact Assessment for the Nationality and Borders Bill) that in relation to their plans to use deterrence to encourage people to claim asylum elsewhere, that “evidence supporting the effectiveness of this approach is limited”. Where people remain undocumented in the UK without making an asylum claim due to their fear of deportation, they will remain vulnerable to labour exploitation. This plays directly into the hands of exploiters who use threats of deportation as a means to deter their victims from coming forward to authorities. The cost of this plan will be astronomical. Australia’s offshore detention system cost more than $1 billion (AUS) per year to detain at most 3,127 people. The UK government has promised £120 million to Rwanda for a “trial”. This would be on top of the costs of detention, transportation, escorting and legal and administrative costs. It is ludicrous that such vast sums are being spent on this plan at the same time the government has refused to help people hit by the cost of living crisis. Moreover, the carbon footprint of hundreds of journeys to a country 4000 miles away will be immense and cannot be justified at this critical moment in the climate crisis. The staggering lack of detail in these plans demonstrates to us how ill-thought through the policy is in terms of its implications and impacts on people, families and lives. For instance: Will people be forced onto planes going to Rwanda if they do not want to go? How will the government distinguish between those deserving residency in the UK and those in Rwanda? Will there be a legal procedure in the UK prior to any removal action being taken? Will vulnerable people, including torture survivors, survivors of trafficking, children, and people with serious mental health problems, be sent to Rwanda? Will people who are coming to the UK because they have family members here, be sent to Rwanda? Is it possible to claim asylum in Rwanda on sexual orientation and gender identity grounds – i.e. does Rwanda recognise LGBTQI+ people as being members of a particular social group under the Refugee Convention? If yes, how many cases on these grounds do they have per year and what is the grant rate? How will the government guarantee access to legal advice and representation and access to a court of law? Will there be any nationalities or categories of people that are excluded from being sent to Rwanda? Can the government confirm that people on arrival would be provided with means to support themselves, accommodation, food and clothing? Does the government’s repeated reference to ‘single men’ include those who have families that are still abroad and were hoping to be reunited under family reunion rules? What is the estimated cost per person of the plan to send people to Rwanda? What processes will be in place to identify and support victims of trafficking deported to Rwanda? The UK Government would, under law, remain responsible for protecting the people it sends to Rwanda from human rights abuses, including physical and sexual assault, persecution or cruel, inhumane or degrading conditions and treatment. Ultimately, these plans are fundamentally out of step with public attitudes towards refugees. While the Home Office has floundered in its response to Ukrainians and Afghans seeking safety in the UK, the general public has indicated that it welcomes refugees. The ultimate victims will be the most vulnerable in our society, who, in attempting to rebuild their lives after experiencing persecution, will be put at risk of experiencing further human rights abuses and taking their own lives. This will have a disproportionate impact on people from the Global South, who make up the majority of people arriving in the UK to claim asylum. This plan simply cannot pass – we urge you to scrap these plans and the Nationality and Borders Bill, which has not yet passed and has received strong opposition in the House of Lords. We also oppose the proposed overhaul of the Human Rights Act. Signed: Enver Solomon, Refugee CouncilBail for Immigration DetaineesLibertyThe Joint Council for the Welfare of ImmigrantsRainbow MigrationHaringey Migrant Support CentreGovan Community ProjectFocus on Labour ExploitationGood Chance TheatreLoraine Masiya Mponela, CARAGRace Equality FoundationBig Leaf FoundationDr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)IMIXWest London WelcomeThe Pickwell FoundationSamphireWaging PeaceRoutesWilliam Gomes, Director, The William Gomes Podcast The William Gomes PodcastRefugee Youth ServiceMicro RainbowThe Refugee Buddy ProjectforRefugeesAnti-Trafficking Monitoring GroupRoom to HealVITAIce and Fire TheatreAsylum Support Appeals ProjectLatin American Women’s Rights ServiceRight to RemainVoices in ExileOur World TooStonewallTaskforce on Victims of Trafficking in Immigration DetentionAsylum WelcomeAssociation of Visitors to Immigration DetaineesYoung RootsPraxisStreets KitchenKalayaanOur Second HomeMigrants’ Rights NetworkJesuit Refugee Service UKMedical JusticeLaw Centres NetworkLabour Exploitation Advisory GroupJesuit Refugee ServiceHerts for RefugeesBoaz TrustGatwick Detainees Welfare GroupUnlock DemocracyHOPE not hateRefugee CompassionBest for BritainSouad Talsi MBE, Founder of Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s CentreMerseyside Solidarity Knows No BordersAsian Women’s Resource CentreMiddle Eastern Women and Society Organisation-MEWSORefugee ActionMigrant VoiceAmnaCommittee on the Administration of JusticeRAS Voice ( Refugee and Asylum Seeker Voice)After ExploitationPolish Migrants Organise for Change (POMOC)Leicester City of SanctuarySussex Aid For RefugeesDetention ActionHelen Bamber FoundationEnd Violence Against Women CoalitionFreedom UnitedSouthall Black SistersUnseenRené CassinRefugee Aid NetworkIndoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO)African Rainbow FamilyAction FoundationManchester Migrant SolidarityChildren EnglandPeople’s History MuseumBondAllies for JusticeNational AIDS TrustNew Weather InstituteLegal Aid Practitioners GroupSophie Hayes FoundationAnother Europe is PossibleCity of Sanctuary UKOpen Rights GroupStand Up To RacismRace Equality FirstUK Must ActKent Refugee Action NetworkSussex Aid For RefugeesChildrens Law CentreArticle 39Asylum AidAsylum MattersRefugee Legal SupportJustRight ScotlandAsylum MattersFair Vote UKStand For AllHope for JusticeTrinity Safe SpaceQuakers in BritainStatewatchVeecca for Fresh Grassroots Rainbow community350.org Mona Adam for Shaman PRStudent Action for RefugeesJubilee Debt CampaignTeeslankasFoxglove LegalTogether100 and Chorleywood4refugeesStreet TalkBirmingham City of SanctuaryCare4Calais LiverpoolUnjustQuaker Asylum and Refugee NetworkStreet TalkRefuAidAdvice NIThe Snowdrop ProjectBCHA (Bournemouth Churches Housing Association)ECPAT UKShare KnowsleyScottish Refugee CouncilWomen for Refugee WomenSt Vincent de Paul RC Church Justice & Peace groupHumanists UKMethodist Asylum Project, MiddlesbroughSafe Passage InternationalLifeline Options CICDisability Rights UKBirmingham Schools of SanctuaryRed Pepper magazineFreedom from TortureSolidarity with RefugeesGreenpeace UKMid Wales Refugee ActionChannel RescueKanlungan Filipino ConsortiumCitizens of the World ChoirBig Brother Watch Merseyside Refugee Support Network Liverpool City of Sanctuary 350.org FODI (Sunderland)Action for Refugees in Lewisham Migrant Help One Strong Voice Medact One September Runnymede TrustArt RefugeMedaille TrustReading Refugee Support GroupReading City of SanctuarySt Agnes & St Aidan ParishThe Equality TrustShropshire Supports RefugeesINQUESTSeraphusNo To Hassockfield (Derwentside IRC)REACHE NorthwestPhone Credit for Refugees and Displaced PeopleSahir House Please add your voice to this open letter by sharing.