Campaigners have said the Government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda has “no place” in the UK’s asylum system after assessments raised human rights concerns.
The Home Office set out more detail on its policy in a series of documents, after confirming it will this week inform the first asylum seekers they could be flown to the East African nation under the latest deportation agreement.
Migrants who crossed the Channel in small boats are among those who will be notified that they face a one-way ticket to Rwanda, the department said, with first flights expected “in the coming months”.
The Home Secretary said this was just the “first stage of the process” and that “it will take some time” because of legal challenges, but stressed she would press ahead with the plans.
Guidance published by the Home Office on Monday evening stated that Rwanda is “a safe country to relocate people to”, although an assessment carried out before the UK-Rwanda agreement found “some concerns with its human rights record around political opposition to the current regime, dissent and free speech”.
The department noted that transgender people “may face greater risk of ill-treatment such as arbitrary arrests and detention as well as degrading treatment”, adding “no-one will be relocated if it is unsafe or inappropriate”.
There were also “concerns over the treatment of some LGBTQI+ people” in Rwanda, but this did not “amount to persecution or serious harm”, the Home Office said.
It also pointed to unverified reports that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers had faced challenges in registering their claims, but said Rwanda had committed to treating all refugees equally and that “ongoing monitoring arrangements” are in place to manage the risk.
Paola Uccellari, interim chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “This Government’s Rwanda scheme should have no place in our asylum system.
“No-one seeking safety in the UK should face deportation to a country half-way round the world, but the fact we now know Priti Patel plans to ship LGBTQ+ people, trafficking and torture survivors to Rwanda, putting them at grave risk, shows us just how depraved these plans are.”
Lewis Mudge, central Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said a Government safety assessment of the plan was “not grounded in reality”, adding: “The Rwandan government has an abysmal record when it comes to guaranteeing internationally recognised refugee rights, statutes and protocols. It’s difficult to imagine a less genuine assessment of Rwanda’s shocking human rights record.”
Ms Patel said: “I will not be deterred from acting to deliver on the changes the British people voted for to take back control of our money, laws and borders.”
The Home Office said it will carry out a case-by-case risk assessment when determining someone’s eligibility for relocation.
Described by Ms Patel as a “world-first” agreement when it was announced last month, the scheme will see the UK pay for asylum seekers who are deemed to have arrived on its shores “illegally” to be sent to Rwanda, where their claims will be processed.
If successful, they will be granted asylum or given refugee status in the country.
Those with failed bids will be offered the chance to apply for visas under other immigration routes if they wish to remain in Rwanda but could still face deportation.
But lone child migrants who have arrived in the UK will be exempt from the policy.
Officials are still unable to say when exactly removals could begin and how many people the Government is initially seeking to deport.
But policing minister Kit Malthouse told TalkTV he was “confident” the first migrants could be sent in the “next couple of months”, despite any “legal response”.
Anyone under consideration will receive a notice of intent, with those arriving in the UK after May 9 prioritised.
At least 7,790 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel this year so far, according to PA news agency analysis of Government figures – more than three times the amount that had arrived in the same period in 2021 (2,520).
The Home Office said on Tuesday it removed 15 “dangerous foreign criminals convicted of murder, actual bodily harm, and theft”, who had served combined sentences of more than 66 years, to Lithuania.