25 January 2023
Together With Refugees took its campaign against the cruel scheme to send refugees to Rwanda to the Houses of Parliament today – on an open-top red bus.
Members, activists with lived experience of being a refugee, actor Juliet Stevenson, who is hosting a Ukrainian family at her home, and comedian Patrick Monahan, a former child refugee from Iran, joined the protest with banners calling on the government to ‘Scrap the cruel Rwanda plan’.
Ali, who arrived as a refugee from Iran and was protesting on the bus, said: “This plan from the government is cruel. I know how hard it was to flee my home and my country to find safety. The thought of being faced with banishment to Rwanda where I knew nobody and faced total uncertainty is terrifying. It must be stopped.”
Juliet Stevenson said: “It shocks me that we have come to this. That as a nation we could abandon our values of fairness and compassion. At its worst this is a morally abhorrent scheme, but it is also expensive and unworkable. The government must scrap this plan and create safe ways for people in need of protection to get here.”
Olivia Blake MP raised the protest today at Prime Minister’s Question Time and called for safe and legal routes for refugees to get here: “Refugees and campaigners have today gathered outside Parliament to highlight the impact of the hostile environment on people in the migration and asylum system. Rather than cruel gimmicks like Rwanda isn’t the best way of deterring Channel crossings, saving lives and breaking the business model of criminal gangs to introduce safe and legal routes to claim asylum.”
Together With Refugees released a new analysis of ‘notices of intent’ today showing that nearly three quarters (72%) of people in a sample of those threatened with being sent to Rwanda by the Home Office have fled countries where 82% or more of people who have sought asylum in the UK have had their refugee status recognised. These countries are Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
The analysis of a sample of 213 notices of intent sent by the Home Office to refugees to inform them they are to be sent to Rwanda was carried out by Together With Refugees member Care4Calais, which is supporting the refugees who have received the notices. You can read the full story here.
Haile (not his real name), 34, is an Ethiopian refugee who is a victim of modern slavery in his home country, having been held for over 20 years and made to work loading and unloading military equipment. He has experienced torture multiple times and he is a survivor of the massacre of Aksum.
Speaking about receiving a notice of intent to remove him to Rwanda, Haile said: “When I read the letter I received from the Home Office, I felt like I was going to a grave. I lost my mind for a while. I couldn’t believe it but it was true. It feels like the dead end of the road to life. In all other times, I am very reactive to adversaries, I never lose hope. But in this situation, I was frozen. Feels like the end of it all. The end of this thing called life.”