U.K. Plans to Send Some Asylum Seekers to Rwanda (2023)

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Britain says it will fly many refugees thousands of miles to the central African country for processing and resettlement, a significant hardening of migration policy.

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    (Video) The UK to send asylum seekers to Rwanda: UN says Rwanda plan for refugees wrong | English News

By Stephen Castle,Megan Specia and Abdi Latif Dahir

LONDON — Britain said on Thursday that it planned to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing and settlement there, becoming one of the few major powers to plan legislation that would turn away migrants without even considering their cases.

The policy, if implemented, would take to a new level the hard-line immigration stance of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government and align it closely with one of his central arguments for pushing Brexit, his signature initiative, which he pledged would allow Britain to “take back control” of its borders.

Human rights groups immediately denounced the policy, saying it is inhumane, violates international agreements on refugees and could set a precedent that encourages other nations to send migrants to other countries, a tactic known as “offshoring.”

In a speech on Thursday, Mr. Johnson said his plan could resettle thousands of migrants who cross the English Channel after long journeys from countries like Albania, Iraq and Sudan, and would apply to those who had arrived since January. He said that Britain “cannot sustain a parallel illegal system. Our compassion may be infinite, but our capacity to help people is not.”

(Video) UK unveils plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing

In Rwanda, those who arrived in so-called emergency transit centers would be given the option of seeking resettlement to countries other than Britain, returning home or to a previous country of asylum, or staying in Rwanda. Britain will pay Rwanda 120 million pounds, about $157 million, to finance opportunities including education, vocational and skills training and language lessons.

Implementing the proposal depends on the passage of a law now being considered by Parliament that could criminalize anyone entering the country without a valid visa or through what the government calls “irregular routes.” Given the limited legal routes for refugees into Britain, that could effectively prevent many from making any asylum claims that would allow them to live in the country.

The legislation’s chances are considered good because Mr. Johnson’s party holds an 80-seat majority.

But the prime minister conceded that the plan would likely face legal challenges and “will not take effect overnight,” adding that in Britain there is a “formidable army of politically motivated lawyers who for years have made it their business to thwart removals.”

Those comments led human rights groups to suggest that Mr. Johnson was laying the groundwork for the policy to stall and then blame left-leaning advocates for derailing it. They suggested he was more interested in outlining a policy that would appeal to his conservative supporters than putting it into practice.

“The public should be very skeptical of these plans,” said the Kent Refugee Action Network in a statement. “It’s likely that very few people will ever actually be sent to Rwanda.” Kent, where Mr. Johnson spoke, is a coastal region, where thousands of asylum seekers have arrived.

Tim Farron, a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, wrote on Twitter that the policy was designed “to use innocent, desperate people as pawns” to “score culture war points.”

(Video) UK plan to send refugees to Rwanda is “cruel” and “immoral” say critics - BBC News

Very few other countries have tried similar tactics to deter migrants. In 2018, a plan by Israel to deport migrants to Rwanda fell through after Rwanda announced that it would accept only those who left Israel voluntarily. Australia has used asylum processing centers on Pacific islands such as Nauru, after intercepting migrants before they reached Australia by boat.

In September, Denmark’s Parliament passed a law that allows the nation to relocate asylum seekers outside Europe to have their refugee claims assessed, despite criticism from rights groups and the United Nations, but it has not relocated anyone yet.

Aid groups say the plan would violate Britain’s commitment to the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees, which lays out international protections. It requires that asylum seekers are protected in the country in which they arrive and cannot be forcibly sent to unsafe areas.

When Britain began to float the prospect of offshore asylum processing last year, an assessment from the United Nations’ refugee agency determined that many of the proposals would potentially violate that agreement.

Andy Hewett, the head of advocacy for the Refugee Council, an aid group in Britain, contrasted the proposed new policy with Britain’s current approach to Ukrainian refugees. The government has rolled out a family reunification policy and a program that allows families to sponsor and provide housing for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

As of Monday, 16,400 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in Britain under the programs, and 56,500 visas had been issued, according to government data.

“There is no difference between the risks facing Ukrainian refugees and the risks facing refugees from other conflict zones across the world,” Mr. Hewett said. “And the response from the U.K. government needs to be consistent. They can’t have an open door for one group, and at the same time, be slamming the door shut on another group.”

For the British government the pressing issue is its failure to curb the arrival of a small but steady flow of people making dangerous, sometimes fatal, crossings, often on unseaworthy boats, across the English Channel from France. While the number of people arriving in Britain by boat is not high by international standards, the channel crossings have been a persistent embarrassment to Mr. Johnson’s government.

Migrants arriving on British shores currently have the right to claim refugee status under international agreements. Of those applying for asylum, almost two-thirds were found to be genuine refugees in 2021.

The choice of Rwanda raised concerns among advocates because of a troubled human rights record that Britain itself has previously questioned. But it is regarded as a stable country with a track record of accommodating displaced people.

In 2017, it offered to receive up to 30,000 African migrants who had faced discrimination, trafficking and violence while in Libya, and overall it has welcomed almost 130,000 refugees or asylum seekers, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

Mr. Johnson also laid out some conditions that seemed further intended to discourage migrants. He said that asylum seekers would, on arrival in Britain, be housed in centers, rather than hotels, and that the Navy would take an enhanced role in tackling the Channel crossings. “They’ll be housed in accommodations like those in Greece,” said Mr. Johnson, referring to the camps there, some of which have earned a reputation for dismal conditions.

Priti Patel, Britain’s home secretary, who traveled to Rwanda for the announcement, said in a statement that the agreement with Rwanda would see “those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the U.K. relocated to have their claims for asylum considered and, if recognized as refugees, to build their lives there.”

The government has not made clear whether the plan will apply to all asylum seekers arriving in Britain or just some. Mr. Johnson appeared to suggest that mostly men would be impacted, saying that it was “a striking fact that around seven out of 10 of those arriving in small boats last year were men under 40, paying people smugglers to queue-jump and taking up our capacity to help genuine women and child refugees.”

The Rwandan government said that people who are transferred to the country would be offered “legal pathways to residence” if their claims were successful.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, described the plan as “unworkable and extortionate.” He added that it was a “desperate announcement by a prime minister who just wants to distract from his own lawbreaking” following the decision by police on Tuesday to fine Mr. Johnson for breaking lockdown rules.

Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party’s lawmakers in the British Parliament, told the BBC that the proposal was “absolutely chilling.”

Mr. Hewett, of the Refugee Council, said that it may take time for the full details of the plan to be released, meaning it was not yet possible to form definite conclusions on its legality. But he said the proposal at the very least undermined the spirit of the 1951 agreement, while setting a “dangerous precedent” that could lead other Western countries to outsource to countries like Rwanda.

“The principle of the convention is that people have a right to claim asylum in any country, that country should examine their asylum claim — and this completely undermines that principle,” he said.

(Video) UK plan to fly asylum-seekers to Rwanda draws outrage • FRANCE 24 English

The migrant pact comes just weeks after Johnston Busingye, Rwanda’s new high commissioner to Britain, arrived in London. The British government had been pressed to block Mr. Busingye’s appointment given his role in the arrest of the dissident Paul Rusesabagina, who helped save thousands during the Rwandan genocide.

Stephen Castle and Megan Specia reported from London and Abdi Latif Dahir from Nairobi, Kenya. Emma Bubola contributed reporting from London.

FAQs

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.

Why are the UK sending refugees to Rwanda? ›

Why is the UK Government sending asylum seekers to Rwanda and who does it apply to? The UK Government has said that the new policy aims to tackle and deter the business model of people smuggling.

Who are the refugees going to Rwanda? ›

Rwanda, Africa's most densely populated country, is currently home to an estimated 150,000 refugees from other African countries, many of whom “work as farm labourers and domestic servants.”

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, ...

Will UK send refugees to Rwanda? ›

A Migration and Economic Development partnership was agreed between the UK and Rwanda in April 2022. It allows the UK to send some people to Rwanda who would otherwise claim asylum in the UK.

Where will asylum seekers live in Rwanda? ›

Anyone the Rwandan authorities decide to deport – such as people who commit a crime – can be sent to the first “safe” country or their country of origin. Asylum seekers will stay in a hostel while their claims are processed.

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.

Where are refugees coming from UK? ›

In 2021, the top five most common countries of nationality of people who applied for asylum in the UK were Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Albania and Syria.

What percentage of asylum seekers 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.
AgeMaleFemale
30-4921%7%
50-691%1%
70+<1%<1%
2 more rows
3 Mar 2022

Is Rwanda safe for asylum seekers? ›

This is a global problem that requires international solutions. Rwanda is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.

Does the EU send asylum seekers to Rwanda? ›

European Union

It is also helping to fund U.N.-run centres in Niger and Rwanda to process asylum seekers. Under a U.N. programme called the Emergency Transit Mechanism, more than 3,000 people from Libyan detention centres who were heading for Europe have been transferred to Niger.

How many refugees are going to Rwanda? ›

As of end of March 2022, Rwanda hosted 127,585 people of concern, including 126,744 refugees and 841 asylum seekers.

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 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.

Does UK have embassy in Rwanda? ›

The British High Commission in Rwanda maintains and develops relations between the UK and Rwanda. Find out more on our UK and Rwanda news page. We provide services to British nationals living in and visiting Rwanda.

How many refugee camps are in Rwanda? ›

Conditions for people in Rwanda's 6 refugee camps vary greatly. Some have just arrived into camps and need immediate support for food, shelter and other necessities. Others, like those living in the Gihembe refugee camp, have been refugees for more than 20 years.

Who are the people being sent to Rwanda? ›

Someone who has been trafficked, and then applied for asylum and had their claim deemed inadmissible, could potentially be sent to Rwanda.

Which country is best for asylum? ›

Best countries for asylum seekers
  • The countries with the most favorable conditions are Germany, Finland, UK, Canada, and the USA;
  • Slightly less engaging circumstances in Sweden, France, Switzerland, and Norway;
30 Jul 2022

Which European countries send asylum seekers to Rwanda? ›

Britain's government announced in April that it had agreed a deal to send asylum-seekers to the east African country. Those granted asylum would then be allowed to resettle in Rwanda.

Is Rwanda good place to live? ›

Life in Rwanda is pretty affordable for most, especially expats, who tend to earn higher salaries than locals. The capital city of Kigali was ranked 175th out of 209 cities on Mercer's Cost of Living Survey in 2021. The standard of living for expats tends to be high here, especially those living in major cities.

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…

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).

Can asylum seekers get sponsorship UK? ›

Community Sponsorship provides a safe and legal route for refugees to come to the UK. It is a practical way for local people to help resettling vulnerable refugee families. Community Sponsorship is a way for people to increase the number of refugees who can find safety in their local area.

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.

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.

What benefits do refugees get in the 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.

Which UK city has the most asylum seekers? ›

While Glasgow has taken the biggest share (3,311), cities such as Manchester, Bolton, and Rochdale - belonging to the poorest 25 percent of local authorities - are shouldering the financial burden the most.

Where do most asylum seekers live in UK? ›

Asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application make up a higher share of the population in the north of England, the West Midlands and Wales, and a lower share in the South East, East of England and South West.

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.

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.

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.

Is Rwanda now a safe country? ›

The security situation near Rwanda's borders with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is volatile, especially within 10km of these borders. Don't cross the borders. There's a risk of rebel attack in the Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans).

Which country has the most asylum seekers in Europe? ›

In 2021, Germany received over a quarter (30%) of asylum applications in the EU, followed by: France (19.1%) Spain (10.4%)
...
Number of applications per EU country (2021)
Country ▲Number of applications in 2021
France120,685 120,685 120,685
Germany190,545 190,545 190,545
Greece28,355 28,355 28,355
Hungary40 40 40
23 more rows
30 Aug 2022

Is Denmark sending refugees to Rwanda? ›

Denmark signed a deal with Rwanda to move the Nordic country closer to setting up an asylum center outside of the European Union to reduce the number of people seeking refuge.

How many people can be sent to Rwanda? ›

There is no cap on the number of people who will be transferred. However, initial news reports suggested that the Rwandan facility currently has the capacity to house around 100 people at once and process the claims of up to 500 occupants per year.

How can I apply for asylum in Rwanda? ›

Application Form. Application letter addressed to the Director General of Immigration and Emigration, signed by both parents. Recommendation letter issued at the administrative cell level or camp manager in case the applicant resides in a refugee camp. Copy of valid Refugee Card and presentation of original.

Is Rwanda a fast growing country? ›

Rwanda has recently enjoyed strong economic growth rates, creating new business prospects and lifting people out of poverty.

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 strong is Rwandan passport? ›

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

Which countries can enter Rwanda without visa? ›

The countries whose citizens do not need to apply for a Rwanda visa before departure are Angola, Benin, Burundi, CAR (Central African Republic), Chad, DR Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Mauritius, Philippines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, South Sudan, ...

How many years visa does UK give? ›

You can choose to apply for a long-term Standard Visitor visa if you visit the UK regularly. This visa lasts 2, 5 or 10 years. You can stay for a maximum of 6 months on each visit. If you're under 18 years old when you apply, your long-term Standard Visitor visa will only be valid for up to 6 months after you turn 18.

How can I get work permit in Rwanda? ›

Requirements:
  1. Any genuine acceptable travel document valid not less than 6 months.
  2. Payment of 150.000 Frw.
  3. Business registration certificate.
  4. Police clearance certificate from the country of residence for the previous six months.
  5. Detailed curriculum vitae.
  6. Photo with white background.
  7. Completed permit application form.

How long does it take to get a work permit in Rwanda? ›

Typically, the procedure of work permit issuance in Rwanda takes 1 month.

How many Rwandans are in the UK? ›

It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of Rwandans in the United Kingdom, but an estimated figure of 10,000–15,000 is likely, drawing on existing data sources (see section 2). Rwandans in the United Kingdom mostly arrived between 1994 and 2000, with smaller numbers arriving in the period from 2000 to 2018.

Can a UK embassy protect you? ›

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and UK embassies, high Commissions and consulates can help British nationals abroad in a range of circumstances. This includes, for example, supporting those who have lost their passport, been a victim of crime or who have been hospitalised or arrested.

How long is a flight from Rwanda to UK? ›

8 hours and 15 minutes is the average flight time from Kigali to London.

How much is the asylum seeker allowance? ›

[2] In 2021, protection applicants receive a weekly allowance of €38.80 per adult and €29.80 per child.

How can I get permanent residence in Rwanda? ›

Requirements:
  1. Any genuine acceptable travel document valid not less than 6 months.
  2. Payment of 150.000 Frw.
  3. Business registration certificate.
  4. Police clearance certificate from the country of residence for the previous six months.
  5. Detailed curriculum vitae.
  6. Photo with white background.
  7. Completed permit application form.

What is Vision 2030 Rwanda? ›

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

Does Rwanda have a benefits system? ›

RSSB is comprised of six schemes: (1) Pension Scheme (2) Occupational Hazards Scheme (3) Maternity Leave Benefit Scheme (4) Medical Scheme (commonly still called 'RAMA') (5) Community-Based Health Insurance Scheme (CBHI) and (6) EjoHeza (a long term saving scheme covering salaried workers and non-salaried population).

How much money do asylum seekers get in UK? ›

Cash support

You'll get £40.85 for each person in your household. This will help you pay for things you need like food, clothing and toiletries. Your allowance will be loaded onto a debit card (ASPEN card) each week. You'll be able to use the card to get cash from a cash machine.

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. ...

What benefits do asylum seekers get in UK? ›

What benefits are people seeking asylum entitled to? People seeking asylum are not allowed to claim mainstream welfare benefits in the UK. In most cases, they are also banned from working. They can access support in the form of housing and basic living expenses while in the UK through the Home Office.

Can a foreigner get a job in Rwanda? ›

You will need a VISA to work in Rwanda. It is recommended to obtain employment there before applying, as your new employer can often sponsor your application. You can find out more information by visiting your local embassy website. More information is available using the button below.

How much is work permit in Rwanda? ›

* 50000frw. Permit issued to a foreigner who resides in a foreign country but travels to Rwanda for a short period of time to undertake a continued fixed assignment. * Recommendation letter from the hosting company.

Which country give permanent residency easily? ›

Paraguay is considered one of the easiest countries to immigrate to because of its investment visa and retirement scheme. Both of these options make it effortless to obtain permanent residency and then citizenship- granted, there is a catch; you need to be well off in terms of financial means.

What is smart Rwanda master plan? ›

Smart City Masterplan provides a framework to guide Rwandan cities and towns in their efforts to harness ICTs to provide a higher quality of life to their citizens, businesses and visitors.

What are the 5 priorities of Agenda 2030? ›

The 2030 Agenda envisions a secure world free of poverty and hunger, with full and productive employment, access to quality education and universal health coverage, the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and an end to environmental degradation.

What is Rwanda main source of income? ›

Rwanda's major foreign exchange earners include mining, tourism, coffee, and tea, and continued growth in these sectors will be critical for economic development and poverty reduction.

Is health care free in Rwanda? ›

All citizens of the country have access to medical treatment at public hospitals and free health insurance.

Videos

1. UK to sign deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing - BBC News
(BBC News)
2. UK plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda draws outrage • FRANCE 24 English
(FRANCE 24 English)
3. U.K. Strikes Deal To Send Some Asylum-Seekers To Rwanda
(NBC News)
4. Is the UK’s plan to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda ethical? | The Stream
(Al Jazeera English)
5. UK tries to press ahead with controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda
(PBS NewsHour)
6. Is UK’s plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda legal?
(TRT World Now)
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