Human Rights Watch has written an urgent letter to the Home Secretary urging the government to rescind their plan to expel people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda.
At the beginning of this month 15 Syrians were served with a removal notice informing them they would be sent to Rwanda as “the final administrative step” in the government’s partnership with Rwanda.
Earlier this year the Home Office announced it planned to send some refugees arriving in the UK to Rwanda whilst their claims were being processed.
Britain will pay Rwanda $150 million for processing, accommodation and support. Asylum seekers who have been sent there will be processed and either recognised as refugees or rejected.
“As a matter of principle, such expulsions and denial of access to asylum on its own territory is a clear abrogation of the UK’s international responsibilities and obligations to asylum seekers and refugees,” the rights watchdog said.
“The UK is seeking to entirely shift its asylum responsibilities onto another country, acting against the object and purpose of the 1951 Refugee Convention (a convention the UK helped draft) and its commitments to global responsibility sharing, and threatening the international refugee protection regime.”
In its letter Human Rights Watch points out that Rwanda cannot be considered a safe, third country to send asylum seekers to due to serious human rights violations which take place in the country.
Last year, during its Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council, the UK denounced Rwanda’s human rights record.
Free speech is quashed in the country, arbitrary detention is rife, as is torture and ill treatment by the government.
“This calls into question and severely undermines the government’s assessment of Rwanda as a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees to be sent to,” said HRW.
In 2018 police fired at 12 refugees from the DRC who were protesting a cut in food provided to them by the UN. Over 60 refugees were arrested and tried for taking part in illegal demonstrations and creating a “hostile international opinion” of Rwanda.
The Rwandan government has forcibly disappeared, arrested and threatened journalists, social media commentators and opposition members and subjected some to torture.
“We have carefully considered the details of the Asylum Partnership Arrangement and it remains unclear how the UK government performed its assessment and reached its conclusion that Rwanda meets the criteria of a safe third country to expel asylum seekers to,” HRW said in their letter.
“Human Rights Watch is of the view that Rwanda is not a safe third country based on its in-country research and evidence set out above, and that, given the context, there is no way to implement effective monitoring to ensure asylum seekers expelled there are not victims of human rights violations.”