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Asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda

We recently reported about changes in asylum claims and procedure (“Asylum and Humanitarian Protection – big changes”, 11 August).

And, on this subject, you may well have read items in the media about Home Office plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda to have their claims processed there. This might sound an outlandish idea but, as the Government has pointed out, some other countries have adopted similar measures. 

So how would this work? Well, apparently this measure would be aimed at asylum-seekers who have arrived in the UK illegally (which is most of them, we would have thought). More specifically, it seems to be particularly aimed at those who have come across the English Channel in small boats and lorries, and an important part of the proposed policy is to stop this happening – which the Government, reasonably enough, says is a bad and dangerous thing.

Such people, once in Rwanda, would have to claim asylum there, under the Rwandan legal system. If their claims are successful then presumably they will be given status and allowed to live there permanently. So somebody who manages to get to the UK to claim asylum here may end up getting refugee status in Rwanda, which would surely be rather confusing for them. Very likely this scheme would inhibit migrants from claiming asylum in the UK in the first place which, from the Government’s point of view, would of course be a good result. 

But an interesting complication about this is that – contrary to what the British Government claims – the human rights situation in Rwanda is not very perfect. This reality creates a surely bizarre situation where a migrant may flee from a country where they claim they would not be safe and end up living in a country where, err…, they may not be safe. 

This is all very complicated and interesting and also very controversial. Various legal challenges have been mounted against the scheme (including in the European Court of Human Rights) and the proposed flights of asylum-seekers to Rwanda have all been stayed by the courts. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is going to hear a judicial case in September, and we shall have to see what comes out of it. But for the moment the policy is not happening. 

We will keep you informed about this but, in the meantime, if you have any queries or issues about asylum claims, we will be able to assist you. 


Oliver Westmoreland

Level 3 Immigration Adviser