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150 organisations state opposition to plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda

Charities and voluntary sector organisations call for the Government to scrap ‘inhumane and unworkable’ plans, while the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) says the plans will cause even more distress to people seeking asylum.

21/04/22

150 organisations state opposition to plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda

More than 150 organisations have joined calls for the Government to scrap its plans to send some asylum-seekers to Rwanda to be processed.

Writing an open letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel, a group of charities and not-for-profit organisations say sending people seeking asylum to Rwanda will cause immense suffering, with the most vulnerable people bearing the brunt.

The letter is signed by organisations which represent people with lived experience of the asylum system, as well as those promoting refugee and migrants’ rights, anti-trafficking, human rights and civil liberties, access to justice, and children's rights.

“This is a shamefully cruel way to treat people who have come to the UK to seek protection, fleeing persecution or conflict,” the letter states.

Saying that the UK already accepts proportionately fewer refugees than many other countries, the letter adds: “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.”

Announcing the policy last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel, said the current global approach to asylum and migration is ‘broken’.

“Existing approaches have failed and there is no single solution to tackle these problems. Change is needed because people are dying attempting to come to the UK illegally.”

Patel added that the policy will apply to those “arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the UK” and will see people seeking asylum, if recognised as refugees, to build their lives in Rwanda.

“This will help break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life, while ensuring protection for the genuinely vulnerable,” Patel said.

The group, however, say the 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,” the letter said.

The announcement is the latest in a series of policy changes proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill. Many of the changes – such as proposals for so-called ‘scientific’ age assessments of refugees – have been met with widespread criticism for being unethical, in breach of human rights, and against international law.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) released its own statement on the plans, reiterating its vocal opposition to the Nationality and Borders Bill.

“The UK continues to become an increasingly hostile environment, and the plans to remove asylum-seekers from the country by sending them to a country 4000 miles away are adding to that hostility,” BASW said in a statement.

“Many social workers work with refugees, and these plans will cause even more distress to people when dealing with an already difficult and complicated system.”

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