U.K. Plan to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda Stokes Anger and Dread (2023)


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The government’s proposal has led to recriminations from rights groups, and anxiety among migrants who fear being sent away.

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U.K. Plan to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda Stokes Anger and Dread (1)

By Megan Specia

FOLKESTONE, England — Nearly every day, Kamal Mohamad calls home to his parents in Iraq from the converted military barracks on the outskirts of Folkestone, a coastal town in Kent, southeastern England, where he is awaiting a decision on his asylum claim.

But when he spoke to his parents two weeks ago, they were inconsolable.

“My dad called me, he was crying,” Mr. Mohamad, 24, said. “He was so scared the government would send me to Rwanda, but I told him, don’t worry.”

The British government’s announcement last month of a contentious plan to send some asylum seekers to the African country has brought confusion and concern to many, like Mr. Mohamad, who arrived here on small boats that crossed the English Channel, or by other irregular means.

(Video) UK plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda stokes anger and dread

It is still unclear whom the policy would affect or how the government would carry out its plan. Asylum seekers, many of whom fled war zones and then underwent dangerous journeys to reach Britain, say that the ambiguity is an additional burden that weighs heavily on them.

Aid groups supporting asylum seekers, who are scattered across Britain in hostels, hotels and other temporary housing, emphasized that the new policy had deepened the uncertainty for people who were already in precarious situations. And even many local residents of Kent, where small boats carrying migrants often arrive after crossing the English Channel, say the plan seems unfair.

Mr. Mohamad, who is Kurdish, arrived in England last year aboard a crowded dinghy. He is one of around 320 men seeking asylum who are currently housed in the former Napier Barracks in Folkestone.

“I had no other options,” Mr. Mohamad said of his flight from Iraq. “We have so many problems in my country. We came just to stay alive.”

Because he arrived before this year, Mr. Mohamad said he thought that it was unlikely the new policy would apply to him. But despite his reassuring words to his father, he acknowledged that he was worried. And he said many newer arrivals were very concerned about being sent to Rwanda.

Katie Sweetingham, 39, the emergency response team leader for Care4Calais, an aid group that supports refugees, said that her organization had received dozens of frantic messages since the government’s plan was announced.


“They already don’t know what their future holds, but then you’ve got this horrible thing hanging over you,” she said. “I think it’s just another thing to traumatize people.”

Ms. Sweetingham and 21 other volunteers monitor boat arrivals along the Kent coastline, greeting and offering hot drinks to people who come ashore. Care4Calais also offers support to those living in Napier Barracks and in other temporary accommodation.

“These are vulnerable people, and they are not a threat,” Ms. Sweetingham said of the migrants.

In a statement, the Home Office said that the partnership with Rwanda would “overhaul our broken asylum system,” adding, “There is nothing in the U.N. Refugee Convention which prevents removal to a safe country.”

But international rights experts and groups representing asylum seekers say that the measures would indeed contravene that legislation, the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the United Nations refugee agency, U.N.H.C.R., has denounced the policy.

So far, Britain’s plan is short on detail, but it says that everyone who “comes to the U.K. illegally, or by dangerous or unnecessary methods” — including by small boat — since the start of this year will be considered for relocation to Rwanda.

(Video) asking the uk privilege citizens opinion on sending asylum seekers to Rwanda


The proposal has led to a backlash from lawmakers in the opposition, and even from some in the governing Conservative Party. It has also reportedly caused upheaval within the Home Office and drawn protest from senior civil servants. Opponents say that the policy would fail to have the intended deterrent effect and could be expensive for taxpayers.

Rights groups say that the plan is being used to score political points at a time when Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure.

The policy is about the visibility of the migrants who arrive by boat “and the political capital to be made out of that visibility,” said Steve Valdez-Symonds, the refugee and migrant rights program director for Amnesty U.K.

“All that is going to happen is that a relatively small number of desperately unfortunate people are going to be arbitrarily singled out to be expelled from this country to Rwanda, and goodness knows what may happen to them,” he added.

Asylum seekers make up a small fraction of those migrating to Britain, and almost all of those who arrive by small boat claim asylum. Of all asylum applications, nearly two-thirds were found to be genuine refugees in 2021.


While boat crossings have increased in the past two years, asylum applications are still down significantly from a peak two decades ago. Migration experts say that is probably because of a shift in routes. Nonetheless, the boat arrivals have become a focus for the Conservative government.

The government backtracked on one immigration measure last Monday, withdrawing its authorization to turn back boats — a policy from last fall that never actually went into practice.

That move came after a legal challenge by several groups, including a union representing border officers who are tasked with carrying out the policy. Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, which was also involved in the lawsuit, said that efforts were now underway to challenge the Rwanda policy, which she called “another staggeringly expensive exercise when we should be helping people.”

On a recent Saturday afternoon, around 20 young men living in a hostel in London gathered in the basement of a church for games, snacks and English lessons organized by Care4Calais.


Most had fled war, political repression or persecution. They came from Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Syria, among other countries. Some had come by boat. Some were smuggled in the back of trucks from Europe. Others arrived by plane with fake documents.

At one table, a volunteer was explaining the rules of Uno. At another, four men gathered around a game of Jenga, erupting in laughter when the wooden blocks tumbled.

One man at the gathering, Medhi, 31, an Iranian who asked that only his first name be used because of safety fears, described arriving in Britain three months ago by plane after fleeing persecution from his family for converting to Christianity.

Medhi shared a photograph of his back that showed severe wounds from lashes that he said his father had inflicted. Medhi said he was worried that the government would send him to Rwanda or back home.

“I fear for that decision,” he said of the possibility of being sent to Rwanda. “I want to stay here.”

Many local residents in Kent, even some whose perspectives veered toward anti-immigrant sentiment, said the Rwanda policy did not sit well with them.

“I don’t agree with them coming over here illegally, but then, once they come over here, the least we can do is help if we can,” said Kerrie Heath, 33, who was shopping in Folkestone. “They are just trying to get somewhere they can better their lives.”

Many adult asylum seekers spend months or years in temporary accommodation without the legal ability to work or go to school while their applications and potential appeals are processed.


Marc Elsdon, 41, a military veteran who was having a drink with his girlfriend in the refurbished harbor area of Folkestone, said that he was ashamed of the Rwanda policy.

“We are open to anyone trying to start a new life,” he said, noting that many of the migrants were fleeing war. “I am sure if it happened here, we would be going to another country for help.”

About 15 minutes from the coast, volunteers with the local charity Napier Friends chatted under the afternoon sun recently with a group of asylum seekers from the converted barracks, who were helping to plant a community garden.


Among a group shoveling soil was Zana, 28, from Iraqi Kurdistan. He, too, asked that his last name not be used because of safety concerns. Zana worked as an English teacher and was a translator for the coalition forces that fought the Islamic State in Iraq.

“My life was in danger there,” he said, describing being attacked for his work with the coalition. He tried to apply for a resettlement visa but that proved “impossible,” he said, so he arranged to be smuggled across Europe in the back of a truck, then to England by boat seven months ago.

Now, he says, he feels abandoned by the countries he spent years helping.

“I had a great life there, but I had to leave it,” he said of Iraq. “I expected a lot better here.”


Why is UK deporting to Rwanda? ›

Why is the UK sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda? The UK hopes to deter irregular migration into the country.

What is the agreement between UK and Rwanda? ›

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the UK and Rwanda for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement is a political agreement under which anyone who is deemed to have arrived illegally in the UK since 1 January 2022 may be relocated to Rwanda: their claim for asylum in the UK would not be considered, ...

Has the UK sent asylum seekers to Rwanda? ›

The UK government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Rwanda which essentially means that rather than fulfilling its legal obligations towards asylum seekers and refugees, it will send asylum seekers to Rwanda. It is a shameful attempt by the UK government to shirk its responsibilities.

Can the UK refuse asylum seekers? ›

Fourth, the asylum claim can be refused. If a claim is refused, the applicant can appeal against the initial decision, and if the appeal is successful be granted permission to stay.

What are the new asylum seekers Rules 2022 UK? ›

The 2022 Act and Part 11 of the Immigration Rules contains the legal framework within which a person granted refugee status in the UK will be provided with permission to stay. A recipient of refugee status will either be granted refugee permission to stay or temporary refugee permission to stay.

Can you get visa after being deported UK? ›

If the appeal is successful and the deportation order is lifted, non-EEA nationals and who require a visa to enter the UK can apply for entry clearance. EEA nationals and non-visa nationals can arrive at a port and seek 'leave to enter'.

Is Rwanda visa free to UK? ›

You need a visa to enter Rwanda. Thirty-day tourist visas are free and available on arrival for citizens of member states of the Commonwealth (including the UK), as well as for those of the African Union and the Francophonie. You can also choose to get a visa in advance at any Rwandan diplomatic mission or online.

How many asylum claims are approved UK? ›

There were 48,540 asylum applications (relating to 56,495 people) in the UK in 2021. This is 63% more than the previous year and the highest number for almost two decades.
Table 1: Individuals applying for asylum as a proportion of the total, by age and sex in 2021.
2 more rows
3 Mar 2022

How long does it take to get a UK visa in Rwanda? ›

How long does it take for a UK Standard Visitor Visa to be ready? It takes about 15 business days for your application form to be processed. Nevertheless, our advice is that you apply for your visa at least 8 weeks before your flight.

How many have been sent to Rwanda from UK? ›

This is consistent with the recent capacity of Rwanda's asylum system to process individual claims. The Home Office's May 2022 review of Rwanda's asylum system shows that in 2020, the country made 228 decisions on asylum claims. In the same year, the UK made around 19,000 asylum decisions.

Where do most asylum seekers come from UK? ›

Approximately 9,800 Iranian nationals applied for asylum in the United Kingdom in 2021/22, the most of any nationality. Asylum seekers from Iraq made up the second highest nationality, at 6,141.

How much do asylum seekers cost the UK? ›

The total is £51,100 per year. We then divided it by 12 months. This gives a total of £4,258 per asylum seeker per month, £1,825 more than in late 2021.

How long can an asylum seeker stay in the UK? ›

Grant of asylum as a refugee

If you are granted asylum in the UK you are recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention and are allowed to remain in the UK for 5 years (limited leave to remain).

How long can Failed asylum seekers stay in the UK? ›

Negative asylum claim decision

The asylum applicant may choose to exercise any right of appeal, but if there is no further right of appeal or the appeal is unsuccessful, they must leave the accommodation within 21 days of being told the outcome of the appeal (but see Section 4 support below).

How long do asylum seekers wait for a decision UK? ›

“The backlog of asylum seekers waiting more than six months for a decision to be made on their case has trebled [this means that it has increased 3 times as much] since Priti Patel took over as Home Secretary in 2019. While the pandemic might have made the issue harder to remedy, the trend began long before it began…

What is new about asylum seekers UK? ›

In 2021, a total number of 24,497 individuals entered the detention estate, 65% more than the previous year. At the end of December 2021, there were a total of 1,179 people held in the detention estate. This is recorded by the Home Office as being up from 1033 when compared to March 2021.

What jobs can asylum seekers do in UK? ›

Most jobs on the shortage occupation list are specialised (like civil engineers, architects, or classical ballet dancers). However, in 2021 and 2022 the list was expanded to include positions like nursing (and nursing assistants), and care work.

Can I come back to UK after being deported? ›

When can I come back to the UK after a deportation? If you have been deported from the UK at any time, you must apply in writing for a revocation of the Deportation Order, and wait for the outcome of the revocation request before you can travel back to the UK, or before you can apply for an entry clearance application.

Can you go back to your country after asylum UK? ›

You may also be able to obtain a Certificate to Travel if you can show that you have formally and unreasonably been refused a national passport by your home country. Most often, your Certificate of Travel will allow you to travel around the world, with the exception of your home country.

Who will be deported from UK? ›

Under section 3(5) of the Immigration Act 1971, a person who is not a British citizen (referred to here as 'a foreign national') is liable to be deported from the UK if the Home Secretary deems it to be 'conducive to the public good'.

Which African country is visa free to UK? ›

Citizens of almost all African countries require a visa to enter the United Kingdom. Currently, only individuals with passports issued by Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, and Seychelles are exempt from this requirement.

How much bank balance is required for UK visa? ›

You'll need to show you have enough money to support yourself - unless you've been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months on the date of your application. How much money you need depends on where you will be studying. You'll need either: £1,334 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London.

How strong is Rwanda passport? ›

The Rwandan passport is currently ranked 81st among global passports, according to the Guide Passport Ranking Index.

What are the chances of winning an asylum case? ›

Not good odds. However, in California, Immigration Judges grant over 40% of the asylum cases that come before them.

Do immigrants get free housing in UK? ›

The UK imposes limitations on access to public benefits and housing benefit for some types of migrants. Migrants with 'no recourse to public funds' (NRPF) condition attached to their immigration status, or who are undocumented, will not be eligible for housing benefit or allocation of social housing. ...

Is it hard to get asylum in UK? ›

76% The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and complex. It is very difficult for people seeking asylum to provide the evidence required to be granted protection. Despite these challenges, the majority of asylum claims are successful.

Which countries can Rwandans visit without a visa? ›

Rwandan passport holders have visa-free access and visas on arrival to countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. Rwandan citizens do however require a visa to enter 168 destinations in the world such as China, Turkey, Russia, the United States and the entire European Union.

How long can I stay in Rwanda without a visa? ›

Validity of Visa: 30 days. Single or Multiple Entry: Multiple entry. Work or No Work: Work is not permitted. Change of Status: A person who holds a sub-class V-1(m) Entry Visa and wants to visit Rwanda for longer than 30 days shall apply for another category of tourist visa.

What is V10 visa in Rwanda? ›

SUBCLASS V12 (Reciprocity): valid for 10 years and is renewable. SUBCLASS V10 (Bridging Visa): validity that's not exceeding 90 days may be extended in exceptional circumstances.

How much is the UK government paying Rwanda? ›

The asylum partnership arrangement

Rwanda will consider them for permission to stay or return to their country of origin. They will not be eligible to return to the UK. In return, the UK is providing £120 million funding to Rwanda. It will also pay for the processing and integration costs for each relocated person.

Is Rwanda a nice place to live? ›

Beautiful weather prevails, making the country a pleasant spot to call home. Locals are also some of the friendliest, most open and welcoming people in Africa. And, although Rwanda has a tumultuous history, the situation today is much more stable, with expats reporting feeling extremely safe.

Who is Rwanda allies with? ›

Bilateral relations. Several west European and African nations, Canada, People's Republic of China, Egypt, Libya, Russia, the Holy See, and the European Union maintain diplomatic missions in Kigali.

Do you get paid to host a refugee? ›

It will not pay hosts; hosting is an altruistic relationship where no rent or services in lieu are due in exchange for the hosting. Refugees at Home will not arrange placements for children, or guests with serious mental health issues or substance abuse problems.

What benefits do refugees get in UK? ›

You might be entitled to benefits like: Universal Credit - if you're unemployed, too ill to work or on a low wage. Pension Credit - if you've reached State Pension age. Housing Benefit - if you need help to pay rent and you've reached State Pension age or you're in temporary or supported housing.

What country has accepted the most asylum seekers? ›

Türkiye hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.7 million people.
Welcome to UNHCR's Refugee Population Statistics Database.
Syrian Arab Republic6.8 million
Venezuela5.6 million
Ukraine5.4 million
Afghanistan2.8 million
1 more row
27 Oct 2022

Do asylum seekers get free housing in the UK? ›

When someone gets refugee status, they can no longer stay in asylum accommodation. They can choose where to live, but they have to pay for their rent or ask for government help – like any UK citizen.

Can I sponsor an asylum seeker UK? ›

Under the Community Sponsorship scheme, anyone can start a local group and apply to sponsor a refugee family to find safety in the UK.

Can asylum seekers get a UK passport? ›

After five years of Refugee Status, you can apply for ILR, and after a year of ILR you can apply for British citizenship.

Can failed asylum seeker marry a British citizen? ›

So can an asylum seeker marry a British citizen in the UK? Theoretically speaking, there is nothing to stop a British citizen and an asylum seeker from getting married in the UK if the relationship is genuine.

What is the difference between refugee and asylum seeker? ›

The definition of an asylum seeker is someone who has arrived in a country and asked for asylum. Until they receive a decision as to whether or not they are a refugee, they are known as an asylum seeker. In the UK, this means they do not have the same rights as a refugee or a British citizen would.

How long does it take to get asylum decision after interview 2022? ›

Generally, results take about two weeks after the asylum interview is conducted at the office of the institution, where you must submit your form along with all the necessary documentation for your case.

Can you be deported after asylum denied? ›

If you are still denied asylum by federal court – or if you do not file an appeal when the immigration judge denies your case – you will probably be deported. It is almost impossible to do any of this successfully without an attorney with experience in asylum.

How long is asylum valid for? ›

Asylees are still eligible for some resettlement services up to 5 years after the date of asylum grant.

What happens after you win asylum? ›

Asylees are admitted to lawful permanent resident status as of the date 1 year before the approval of their Form I-485. Upon the approval of their Form I-485, refugees are admitted to lawful permanent residence as of the date of their arrival in the United States.

Can asylum seeker buy house in UK? ›

A) No, mortgage for Asylum Seekers on a Visa start from a minimum if £25,001. The chances are you've on a Refugee visa this likely to your first home in the UK and as such scrutiny on the deposit will be greater as the proceeds will not be coming from a property sale which is a safest traceable form.

What percentage of UK asylum claims are granted? ›

There were 48,540 asylum applications (relating to 56,495 people) in the UK in 2021. This is 63% more than the previous year and the highest number for almost two decades.
Table 1: Individuals applying for asylum as a proportion of the total, by age and sex in 2021.
2 more rows
3 Mar 2022

Why did the UN pull out of Rwanda? ›

The UN decided to pull most of its troops because it was believed that the civil war would begin again. With the war beginning once again, the personnel that were left in Rwanda were not there to protect civilians or kept even necessarily for peacekeeping but rather in order to attain a cease fire once again.

What causes deportation in UK? ›

If you enter the UK illegally, overstay your visa, breach conditions of your leave, or use deception in your application, then you could be deported and will likely face some sort of re-entry ban. Depending on what you have done for the Home Office to decide to deport you, the ban could range from one to ten years.

Why did the UN ignore Rwanda? ›

According to Barnett, UN inaction stemmed from its desire not to get involved in a potentially-risky operation for public relations that could damage the prospects for future peace-building operations since 18 UN troops had recently been killed in Somalia, despite the capacity of UN troops to save thousands of lives.

Are refugees being deported to Rwanda? ›

The Home Office is planning a new deportation flight to Rwanda, the Guardian has learned. Some newly arrived asylum seekers in hotels have received letters from the department telling them their asylum claims are deemed inadmissible for consideration in the UK.

Why did NATO not intervene in Rwanda? ›

As NATO member states did not have significant economic ties to Rwanda, they also did not rely on any particular natural resource provided by the country. It therefore makes sense that they would not intervene, as they had no interests to protect.

Does the UN send people to Rwanda? ›

It was intended to assist in the implementation of the Arusha Accords, signed on 4 August 1993, which was meant to end the Rwandan Civil War. The mission lasted from October 1993 to March 1996.
United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda.
Parent organizationUnited Nations Security Council
6 more rows

How many people did the UN save in Rwanda? ›

soldiers in Rwanda took extraordinary actions, using diplomacy, cultural awareness and community engagement. Their actions saved close to 30,000 lives, according to Romeo Dallaire, who led the U.N.'s deployment in Rwanda. Learning from what actually worked on this famously failed mission can save lives in the future.

Can you be deported if you have a child in the UK? ›

Yes, you can be deported if you have a child in the UK. If your child is under 18 and doesn't have their own indefinite leave to remain and/or has been living with you, they are liable to be deported with you. This is the case even if they have not broken any immigration rules themselves.

Why did the UN fail to stop the Rwandan genocide? ›

UN forces known as UNAMIR made some efforts to patrol the streets of Rwanda, but they were unable to stop killing and breach the road blocks. The UN forces failed to use force to get beyond roadblocks, and they failed to attack the killers as they were not allowed by their mandate.

Has the UN ever stopped a war? ›

Since 1948, the UN has helped end conflicts and foster reconciliation by conducting successful peacekeeping operations in dozens of countries, including Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique, Namibia and Tajikistan.

Who leads the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda? ›

Roméo Dallaire. Roméo Dallaire, (born June 25, 1946, Denekamp, Netherlands), Canadian army officer who led the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping mission (1993–94) in Rwanda. The son of a Canadian soldier, Dallaire joined the Canadian army in 1964 and earned a B.S.

What is the Rwanda asylum seeker plan? ›

In April 2022, the government announced plans to forcibly send certain categories of people seeking asylum to Rwanda. Instead of having their applications assessed in Britain, the process will be managed by the Rwandan government. If successful, and granted refugee status, the person will be expected to live in Rwanda.

What nationality are the people being deported to Rwanda? ›

Those due to be deported include Albanians, Iraqis, Iranians and a Syrian, Care4Calais said. UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi had earlier denounced the UK government policy as “all wrong” and said it should not be “exporting its responsibility to another country”.

Which airline is flying refugees to Rwanda? ›

Privilege Style airlines could fly torture survivors to Rwanda, but you still use them for team flights. No flights have taken off yet to Rwanda because of legal challenges in the high court.

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