Rwanda Judgement Announcement
Less than a week after a further four deaths in the Channel, we are appalled that the UK Government has been given the green light for its inhumane Rwanda scheme which violates the fundamental rights of asylum seekers.
The effect on people in Northern France seeking safe, new lives in the UK cannot be underestimated. This will worsen the humanitarian emergency persisting at the British border, funded by taxpayers. Calais and Grande Synthe remain cruel and dangerous places for thousands of people seeking safety. Human rights are routinely abused and thousands of people sleep rough in and around the city. Police are carrying out evictions every 24 hours in December despite the cold weather, seizing and often destroying tents, sleeping bags and other personal belongings. Instead of providing safe routes so that people can safely claim asylum, the UK Government recently pledged to increase the funding given to the French military to patrol the border. The looming threat of deportations to Rwanda will intensify these desperate journeys, but it will not stop them.
When the Rwanda deportation scheme was announced earlier this year, the effect on the mental health of displaced people was devastating and immediate, both for people in Northern France and already in the UK. People feared they risked being flown to Rwanda before their asylum claim had been heard, and that they would remain in Rwanda if their claim was accepted (under the Government’s current plans, both of these would be true). There is a real risk that unaccompanied minors who are not recognized as such by the British state are flown to Rwanda under this scheme, completely contrary to all international conventions on children’s rights. The atmosphere was tense and despondent whilst people were confronted with these uncertainties; two people took their own lives amidst all the confusion and misinformation.
Simultaneously, many Ukrainians were briefly accommodated in Calais before being transferred to the UK. The admirable success of the visa scheme for Ukrainians shows that the UK & France are able to collaborate on providing safe passage to people seeking safety. Grassroots organisations remain in Calais because the UK and French Governments are failing to fulfil this responsibility to people of other nationalities facing equal threats. Around 80% of all asylum applications in the UK succeed either at the initial stage or on appeal - these are people who deserve protection, and yet they are treated with an inhumane disregard at almost every stage of their journey.
On Wednesday 14th December, at least four people died trying to reach the UK. It’s been just over a year since the drowning which claimed over 31 lives in the Channel. They died as they were exercising their right to claim asylum. That day, there were 44 ferry crossings, 36 Eurotunnel journeys & countless car and plane journeys without incident. People risk their lives because the UK Government gives them no other choice. People have the right to seek asylum, but in limiting people’s options to arrive to the UK safely you are forcing them to undertake horrendous, life-threatening journeys. We are alarmed by the potential consequences of this policy: people will continue making dangerous crossings, then risk living in hiding in the UK for fear of seeking asylum and being sent back to Rwanda.
There is an answer: a fairer, compassionate asylum system. Flying people to an unsafe third country they have no connection to will do nothing to stop small boat crossings. What we need is safe routes for people to come to the UK and have their asylum claims heard.
What is clear from today’s judgement is that people’s right to choose where they want to claim asylum is being disregarded. Whilst the media attention will soon shift away from Calais and Dunkirk we will continue to stand alongside the people on the UK / French border who are seeking safety. We call on the UK government to scrap this cruel and inhumane policy. They can and must do better to ensure that a just, compassionate and workable system is in place for all seeking asylum.
Humans for Rights Network
Calais Food Collective
L’Auberge Des Migrants
Channel Info Project
Human Rights Observers
Refugee Legal Support