British Home Secretary Priti Patel has served the first group of refugees crossing the English Channel with an official notice that they are “under consideration” for relocation to Rwanda to claim asylum.
The Home Office has said that any migrants arriving in Britain after Monday will be prioritised for the scheme.
“The first group of illegal migrants with no right to be in the UK have been informed of our intention to relocate them to Rwanda under the new Migration and Economic Development Partnership,” the home secretary was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.
Last month the Home Office announced it planned to send some refugees arriving in the UK to Rwanda whilst their claims were processed. The scheme will cost £120 million ($148.6 million) which Britain will pay Rwanda for accommodation, processing and support.
The Public and Commercial Services Union has asked the Home Office for more details on the scheme so it can analyse how it complies with domestic law and the Geneva Convention on refugees.
Human rights campaigners have asked the Home Office to explain how it will share data of the refugees sent to Rwanda with the government there which has also committed human rights abuses.
A 2022 report from Human Rights Watch states that Rwanda’s government puts pressure on its own refugee communities and threatens and harasses known critics of the government with some being forcibly disappeared or killed.
Torture and ill-treatment in detention facilities is commonplace, said the rights watchdog.
During a recent Conservative Party dinner activists stood on their chairs in protest of the Rwanda policy, with one telling Patel: “Your racist policies are killing people. Your plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda are inhumane and are going to ruin people’s lives.”
— Stefan Simanowitz (@StefSimanowitz) May 7, 2022
The UK Home Secretary has been under constant criticism for her policies on asylum seekers, in January coming under fire by an MP for referring to migrants and asylum seekers as “illegal” in direct contradiction to a court’s ruling that they’re not.