25 January 2023
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 (1), reveals a new analysis of ‘notices of intent’ (2). These countries are Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Syria (3). The findings are released today by campaign coalition Together With Refugees.
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.
The findings are in stark contrast to claims by former Home Secretary Priti Patel, who launched the scheme to deter people crossing the Channel in small boats (4). She said: “In the last 12 months alone 70% of the individuals who have come to our country illegally via small boats are single men, who are effectively economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers… These are the ones who are elbowing out the women and children, who are at risk and fleeing persecution.” (5)
However, 13 of those in the analysis of notices of intent are women. Nearly half (42%) are married or engaged and one in five (20%) have children. Two thirds (66%) of those in the sample have reported being victims of modern slavery of torture.
The figures also reveal that three of the refugees in the sample identify as LGBTQ+, despite Rwanda being a country from which people fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation can seek asylum in the UK (6).
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.”
Beth Gardiner-Smith, spokesperson for Together With Refugees and CEO of Safe Passage, said: “Turning our backs on already traumatised people, sending them away and treating them like human cargo, is horrifying. But this scheme is not just morally wrong, it’s expensive and unworkable. If our government were serious about tackling smuggling and saving lives at sea, they would scrap this plan and urgently expand safe routes for refugees.”
Clare Moseley, Founder of Care4Calais, said: “Victims of conflict, human rights abuses and torture should not be faced with the trauma of deportation half way across the world to a future where we cannot guarantee their safety.
“This brutal policy will not end small boat crossings, it won’t stop people smugglers and it won’t keep refugees safe. There is a kinder and more effective option: give safe passage to refugees in Calais.”
Campaigners will protest against the scheme on a red open-top London bus outside the Houses of Parliament today (7). The bus, covered in banners calling on the government to ‘Scrap the cruel Rwanda plan’, will be filled with people with lived experience of being a refugee, including from Rwanda; actor Juliet Stevenson who is hosting a Ukrainian family; comedian Patrick Monahan, a former refugee from Iran; grassroots activists; and NGOs. They will carry placards calling for the scheme to be scrapped and orange hearts – the symbol of a fairer, kinder and more effective approach to refugees (8).
Despite finding the scheme lawful in December last year, the High Court has agreed that this decision can be appealed. Regardless of the legal outcome the Together With Refugees coalition is calling for the Prime Minister to scrap the scheme and build a fair, kind and orderly asylum system with safe ways for refugees to get to the UK and have their application assessed, without having to risk their lives crossing the Channel.
There are very few pre-authorised routes to access protection in the UK and none which enable you to come for the purpose of seeking asylum. The Rwanda scheme means that anyone who seeks protection in the UK via an unauthorised route, such as a small boat across the Channel or the back of a lorry, can be considered for removal to Rwanda. They will have no opportunity to have their case for asylum heard in the UK, and even if their application to stay in Rwanda as a refugee is successful there is no official route to return here.
According to a recent YouGov poll only 10% of Brits think sending people who cross the channel in boats to Rwanda to try and deter them from coming to Britain would be the best way of addressing this issue (9).
Notes to editors
- Home Office statistics on acceptance rates of applications for refugee status, published on 24 November 2022 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/immigration-statistics-year-ending-september-2022/how-many-people-do-we-grant-protection-to
- Care4Calais have analysed 213 notices of intent that were sent to refugees by the Home Office informing them that they are to be sent to Rwanda that were received between August 2022 and 17 January 2023. This is the second tranche of notices accessed by Care4Calais who also supported 131 clients who had received notices prior to the court hearing in June. This analysis only includes those clients supported by Care4Calais. Public information on the number of notices of intent sent by the Home Office does not specify whether they are proposing to remove to Rwanda or another country.
- 72% (153) of people in the 213 sample of notices of intent were from the below countries:
- 20% (42) are from Sudan, where 87% of applications are successful at initial decision
- 18% (39) are from Iran, where 82% of applications are granted at initial decision
- 13% (27) are from Syria, where 98% of applications are granted at initial decision
- 12% (26) are from Eritrea, where 98% of applications are granted at initial decision
- 9% (19) are from Afghanistan, where 98% of applications are granted at initial decision
- The statement was made during an oral evidence session at the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee on the 27th October 2021.
- https://www.rainbowmigration.org.uk/news/rwanda-is-not-safe-for-lgbtqi-people/ and https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/immigration-statistics-year-ending-june-2021/asylum-claims-on-the-basis-of-sexual-orientation-2020
- An open top-bus protest is taking place on Wednesday 25 January outside the Houses of Parliament from 10am. The protestors are refugees including those from Rwanda, activists including Juliet Stevenson and the Ukrainian family she is hosting, NGOs and grassroots campaign organisations. Media access and interviews may be available on request.
- The orange heart is a symbol of a more compassionate approach to refugees. It uses the colours of the refugee nation flag created by refugee Yara Said, for the first ever refugee team in the Olympics in 2016. The colours were inspired by a lifebelt representing hope. The heart was developed in 2021 in consultation with refugee organisations and people with lived experience.
- YouGov poll December 2022 https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/12/19/large-majority-britons-disapprove-governments-hand
About Together With Refugees
Together With Refugees is a coalition of more than 500 national and local organisations representing refugees and people from all walks of life who believe in showing compassion to refugees fleeing war and persecution. The coalition is calling for a better approach to supporting refugees that: allows people to seek safety in the UK, no matter how they came here; ensures people can live in dignity while they wait to find out if they will be granted protection; and enables refugees to rebuild their lives and make valuable contributions to their communities. It also wants the UK to work with other countries to do its bit to help people forced to flee their homes. Find out more at www.togetherwithrefugees.org.uk and @RefugeeTogether on Twitter