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, criminal justice reform, 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 modeled 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 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 (we will send the letter on 14 April but keep updating this on a rolling basis)
    Bail for Immigration Detainees
    The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
    Rainbow Migration
    Haringey Migrant Support Centre
    Govan Community Project
    Focus on Labour Exploitation
    Good Chance Theatre
    Loraine Masiya Mponela, CARAG
    Race Equality Foundation
    Big Leaf Foundation
    Dr Edie Friedman, Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE)
    Julia Rampen, Media Director, IMIX
    West London Welcome
    The Pickwell Foundation
    Waging Peace
    William Gomes, Director, The William Gomes Podcast The William Gomes Podcast
    Refugee Youth Service
    Micro Rainbow
    The Refugee Buddy Project
    Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group
    Room to Heal
    Ice and Fire Theatre
    Asylum Support Appeals Project
    Latin American Women’s Rights Service
    Right to Remain
    Voices in Exile
    Our World Too
    Taskforce on Victims of Trafficking in Immigration Detention
    Asylum Welcome
    Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees
    Young Roots
    Streets Kitchen
    Our Second Home
    Migrants’ Rights Network
    Jesuit Refugee Service UK
    Medical Justice
    Law Centres Network
    Labour Exploitation Advisory Group
    Jesuit Refugee Service
    Herts for Refugees
    Boaz Trust
    Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
    Unlock Democracy
    HOPE not hate
    Refugee Compassion
    Best for Britain
    Souad Talsi MBE, Founder of Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre
    Merseyside Solidarity Knows No Borders
    Asian Women’s Resource Centre
    Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation-MEWSO
    Refugee Action
    Migrant Voice
    Committee on the Administration of Justice
    RAS Voice ( Refugee and Asylum Seeker Voice)
    After Exploitation
    Polish Migrants Organise for Change (POMOC)
    Leicester City of Sanctuary
    Sussex Aid For Refugees
    Detention Action
    Helen Bamber Foundation
    End Violence Against Women Coalition
    Freedom United
    Southall Black Sisters
    René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights
    René Cassin
    Refugee Aid Network
    Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO)
    African Rainbow Family
    Action Foundation
    Manchester Migrant Solidarity
    Children England
    People’s History Museum
    Allies for Justice
    National AIDS Trust
    New Weather Institute
    Legal Aid Practitioners Group
    Sophie Hayes Foundation
    Another Europe is Possible
    City of Sanctuary UK
    Open Rights Group
    Stand Up To Racism
    Race Equality First
    UK Must Act
    Kent Refugee Action Network
    Sussex Aid For Refugees
    Childrens Law Centre
    Article 39
    Asylum Aid
    Asylum Matters
    Refugee Legal Support
    JustRight Scotland
    Asylum Matters
    Fair Vote UK
    Stand For All
    Hope for Justice
    Trinity Safe Space
    Quakers in Britain
    Veecca for Fresh Grassroots Rainbow community
    Mona Adam for Shaman PR
    Student Action for Refugees
    Jubilee Debt Campaign
    Foxglove Legal
    Together100 and Chorleywood4refugees
    Street Talk
    Birmingham City of Sanctuary
    Care4Calais Liverpool
    Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
    Street Talk
    Advice NI
    The Snowdrop Project
    BCHA (Bournemouth Churches Housing Association)
    Share Knowsley
    Scottish Refugee Council
    Women for Refugee Women
    St Vincent de Paul RC Church Justice & Peace group
    Humanists UK
    Methodist Asylum Project, Middlesbrough
    Safe Passage International
    Lifeline Options CIC
    Disability Rights UK
    Birmingham Schools of Sanctuary
    Red Pepper magazine
    Freedom from Torture
    Solidarity with Refugees
    Greenpeace UK
    Mid Wales Refugee Action
    Channel Rescue
    Kanlungan Filipino Consortium
    Citizens of the World Choir
    Big Brother Watch
    FODI (Sunderland)
    Action for Refugees in Lewisham
    Migrant Help
    One Strong Voice
    One September
    Medaille Trust
    Reading Refugee Support Group
    Reading City of Sanctuary
    St Agnes & St Aidan Parish
    The Equality Trust
    Shropshire Supports Refugees
    No To Hassockfield (Derwentside IRC)
    REACHE Northwest
    People Not Borders
    Runnymede Trust
    Human Rights Consortium Scotland
    Migration Justice Project, Law Centre NI
    Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network
    Cribs International
    Farnham Help for Refugees in the UK and Abroad
    Asylum link Merseyside
    Church and Peace
    Refugees Welcome Crawley
    Foundation ofJewish heritage and One Vision
    Social Workers Without Borders
    Defend Our NHS
    Christian Brothers
    Migrant English Project Brighton
    Farnham Help for Refugees in the UK and Abroad
    St Albans for Refugees
    Humanity Aid
    Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity
    St Dunstan’s Catholic Primary School
    Bekah Lucking
    Humans for Rights Network
    Voices in exile, brighton, trustee
    Refugees Welcome Crawley
    Women in Travel cic
    Wansworth welcomes refugees
    Brighton and Hove Freedom from Torture Supporters’ Group
    IKWRO-Women’s Righrs Organisation
    Farnham Help for Refugees in the UK and Abroad
    Savera UK
    Kalsi Solicitors
    Bristol Refugee Rights
Government proposals to offshore asylum claims to Rwanda will be particularly harmful to LGBTQI+ people