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Home Office plans to ‘process asylum-seekers’ in Rwanda — BASW UK statement

The UK continues to become an increasingly hostile environment

Last week, the Home Office announced that they had made a deal with Rwanda to fly some asylum-seekers who travel to the UK, through what the Home Office describes as ‘illegal routes’, to Rwanda where they will then be processed.

This announcement is the latest in a long line of policy changes – mostly wrapped up in the Nationality and Borders Bill – which are reforming immigration and asylum processes. These changes have been met with widespread criticism for being unethical, in breach of human rights, and against international law. 

BASW has been vocal in our opposition to the Nationality and Borders Bill which paves the way for many changes that the Home Office is implementing.

The Nationality and Borders Bill has been going through the UK Parliament legislative stages since last year and is now in its ‘ping-pong’ stage between the Commons and the Lords where parliamentarians are disputing over the detail. 

The Bill is expected to pass in the next few weeks, or it will likely be carried over to the next parliamentary session along with other Bills that have not completed their passage, before the Queen’s Speech in the UK Parliament in May. 

While the debate over the content of the Bill is ongoing, the Home Secretary Priti Patel is using ministerial powers to force the plan through - despite suggestions that it may not meet the civil service criteria for ‘value for money’. The scheme is estimated to cost millions per person removed from the UK to Rwanda, while it currently costs £12k to process an asylum seeker on UK soil.

If a person removed from the UK and sent to Rwanda for processing is found to be eligible for asylum, they will be offered asylum in Rwanda rather than the UK. This means that this is not just processing asylum-seekers in another country, but it is the forced removal of asylum-seekers from UK soil.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

The proposals have been met with criticism, including from senior figures in the Conservative Party such as Baroness Warsi who has called the scheme ‘inhumane, cynical, ineffective and costly’.

The Home Office has made assurances that children will not be sent to Rwanda, but this has not calmed fears that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children could be sent to Rwanda. 

We know that the Home Office has placed children in adult accommodation here in the UK - BASW is demanding that any person whose age is disputed in the UK will not be sent to Rwanda before the full age assessment process is completed, along with the opportunity for appeal.

UK continues to become an increasingly hostile environment

The UK Government has admitted that they expect legal challenges to these plans, which the United Nations refugee agency has described as ‘unacceptable’.

The UK continues to become an increasingly hostile environment, and the plans to remove asylum-seekers from the country by sending them to a country 4000 miles away are adding to that hostility. 

Many social workers work with refugees, and these plans will cause even more distress to people when dealing with an already difficult and complicated system.