Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced the first deportation flight to Rwanda will leave the UK on June 14. A group of asylum seekers have been sent formal notices by the Home Office advising they will be relocated to the east African country, officials have said. It comes after the Government announced a deal with Rwanda last month, which will see asylum seekers processed in the east African country. However, various concerns have been raised about the plan, and the policy will likely come under legal challenge.
Express.co.uk approached the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, an organisation that offers advice to those who are the victims of unjust immigration policies.
The charity’s policy & advocacy manager, Zoe Gardner, accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ms Patel of “cruelty”.
She said: “Most of us are caring people who want to see people fleeing conflict treated with compassion and respect, whether they’re Ukrainian or Syrian.
“But as soon as Boris Johnson lands himself in political hot water, his Government makes a cruel new anti-refugee announcement, in a blatant attempt to stoke hatred and divert our attention elsewhere.
“This does nothing to solve anyone’s problems and puts people’s lives at risk.
“We know the introduction of safe routes, like humanitarian visas, could prevent perilous crossings and save lives, so why doesn’t this Government take the action we know is needed instead of repeatedly using refugees as a political football?”
Opponents of the policy have raised concerns this week after it emerged Syrians and Afghans will be amongst those on the first flight.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Government of “chasing headlines regardless of reality” after the first flights to Rwanda were announced.
She said: “The Rwanda scheme isn’t about deterring the criminal gangs or small boat crossings, it’s about chasing headlines regardless of reality.
“This is a completely unworkable, extortionately expensive, and deeply un-British policy.
“There is no proper process for identifying people who have been trafficked or tortured.”
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Earlier this month, the Home Office admitted that lesbian, gay and bisexual refugees could be persecuted if sent to Rwanda, but still plans to fly them there anyway.
While it is not illegal to be openly gay in Rwanda, the country does not recognise same-sex marriages, civil unions or similar unions.
Most gay people who have been interviewed stated that they are not open about their sexuality to their family for fear of being rejected.
The Constitution of Rwanda, adopted in May 2003, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
A senior Home Office official also suggested earlier this month that Ukrainian refugees could be sent to Rwanda.
Daniel Hobbs, director of asylum, protection and enforcement at the Home Office, was unable to rule out the possibility, The Times reported.
Other critics have highlighted the cost of the plan.
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Rwanda will receive a £120million payment and then money for each migrant processed.
Reports suggest it could be between £20,000 and £30,000 for each person.
Conservative MP Tom Pursglove defended the policy recently.
In April, he said it would allow migrants to embark on “fully prosperous” lives in the central African country while simultaneously crushing the “cruel” business model of human traffickers.
Speaking to ITV, he added: “There is this £120m payment upfront to establish this partnership and, as we move forward, we will continue to make contributions to Rwanda as they process the cases, in a manner that is similar to the amount of money we are spending on this currently here in the United Kingdom.
“But longer term, by getting this under control, it should help us to save money.
“We are spending £5million per day accommodating individuals who are crossing in hotels.
“That is not sustainable and is not acceptable and we have to get that under control.”