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UK Government Confirms No Deportations to Rwanda Before Election

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In what could mean the end of its troubled Rwanda plan, the British government has confirmed that no asylum seekers will be deported to the African country before the July general election.

The UK government this week said it does not intend to carry out enforced removals to Rwanda before the upcoming election. The announcement, in response to a request for clarification from the High Court, contradicts previous statements that deportations of asylum seekers could begin as early as June 24.

The request from the court came amid a legal challenge to the Safety of Rwanda Act brought by the FDA trade union, which represents senior civil servants. The judge has now confirmed that the hearing next week into the validity of the new law will go ahead as planned.

Call for release of Rwanda detainees

Following the announcement, there were calls from migrant support groups for asylum seekers who have been detained ahead of planned removal to be released.

Over the past month, an unknown number of people have been arrested and taken to detention facilities pending deportation. Video footage of the migrants being handcuffed and put into vans was posted by the Home Office at the start of May. At least 24 people have since been released on bail, the BBC reported on Wednesday (May 29).

Those in line for forced removal under the government’s plan initially included only those who had arrived “irregularly” in the UK on or after January 1, 2022 and had received a notice by June 29, 2023 that their claim “may be inadmissible.”

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On May 15 the Home Office announced that the scheme was being expanded to include people whose asylum claims had been processed and had received a final negative decision.

Plan faces renewed criticism

The Safety of Rwanda Act, approved by the parliament in April, obliges the UK courts to consider Rwanda as a safe country, so that they cannot block migrants from being sent there.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that deportations to the African nation will happen if his government is re-elected on July 4. Labour leader Keir Starmer has promised that the scheme will be scrapped if his party wins. Current polls indicate that Sunak’s government will likely be defeated.

The government claims that the risk of being detained in the UK and deported will stop asylum seekers crossing the Channel from France. More than 10,000 people have reached England via this route so far in 2024, a 38% increase compared with this time last year, according to the PA news agency.

The Rwanda plan has faced renewed criticism in a report by a UK parliamentary committee published this week. The Asylum Accommodation and UK-Rwanda partnership report accuses the government of wasting money on the Rwanda scheme while leaving tens of thousands of people with no ability to claim asylum in limbo.

The Hope Hostel in Kigali, Rwanda ready for asylum seekers from the UK, who may never arrive | Photo: InfoMigrants
The Hope Hostel in Kigali, Rwanda ready for asylum seekers from the UK, who may never arrive | Photo: InfoMigrants

While forced removals are on hold for now, a voluntary departure scheme to Rwanda is continuing. Under the plan, asylum seekers whose claims are rejected are offered 3,000 pounds (about 3,500 euros) to relocate to the country. Following the launch of the voluntary scheme, several migrant support groups, including the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, warned asylum seekers not to accept relocation “offers” from the Home Office before seeking legal advice.

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