Small boat asylum seekers undeterred by Rwandan plan, survey finds | Immigration and asylum


Deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlikely to deter those from northern France hoping to cross the English Channel in small boats, according to a survey that found three-quarters said they would still try to make the trip.

The snap survey of over 60 asylum seekers in Calais and Dunkirk was carried out by the charity Care4Calais, which provides practical support to asylum seekers in northern France and across the UK .

When the British government announced its intention to relocate some asylum seekers to Rwanda on April 14, ministers stressed that the controversial scheme would have a chilling effect on asylum seekers considering crossing the Channel on small boats.

Asylum seekers who spoke to Care4Calais said they were always ready to try their luck.

“I’m willing to take the risk,” said one. “Everyone is scared in the camp but I don’t think it will affect them. [the decision to cross the Channel].”

Many of those interviewed had fled Sudan or South Sudan and were horrified at the thought of being flown back to a country not far from where they traveled, especially after enduring the hardships of crossing the Libya, where many had to deal with traffickers, and make the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean to Italy.

“Rwanda is not good. This is for the animals, we take risks to have a safe life,” said another asylum seeker who took part in the investigation.

On Sunday, more than 200 people crossed the English Channel in small boats after an 11-day break due to bad weather, although the government claimed the absence of such crossings was proof that its plan for Rwanda had already a deterrent effect. The most recent crossings, before small boat activity resumed on the English Channel on Sunday, were on April 19, when 263 people crossed in seven boats.

The relocation projects are the subject of several legal challenges, including that of Care4Calais, PCS and Detention Action. They challenge the failure to publish details of the policy and the government’s decision to penalize asylum seekers on the basis of irregular entry into the UK.

Care4Calais has launched a crowdfunding for legal action and condemned the impact of the plans on asylum seekers on both sides of the Channel. The charity is one of many to sound the alarm that since the government announced plans to relocate people to Rwanda, dozens of asylum seekers have reportedly disappeared from hotels across the UK where the Ministry of the Interior is hosting them, because they are afraid of being arrested and put on a plane for Rwanda.

Care4Calais volunteer Sam Jonkers knows of refugees who have disappeared from hotels and says she has been inundated with text messages from asylum seekers fearing they will be relocated.

“Rwanda’s plans are devastating for people who have left such dangerous countries and had such difficult journeys to reach the UK,” she said. “I received hundreds of text messages from terrified asylum seekers; they can’t sleep at night because they are so worried.

A message reads: “I couldn’t sleep. So scared by what we expect to happen to us in the next few days with Rwanda’s decision.

Another said: ‘I now think there are no human rights anywhere in the world, not in Iran or the UK or anywhere else.

While around a quarter of respondents to the Care4Calais survey in northern France said the news of relocation to Rwanda would prompt them to consider staying in France and seeking asylum there, many said that they would continue with their plans to join the UK.

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Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, condemned the impact on asylum seekers in the UK of Rwanda’s announcement, saying: “The government is failing in its duty of care to people in the system. asylum by failing to recognize the devastating impact of the threat of deportation to Rwanda.

He said the government was simply treating the asylum seekers it hoped to relocate as “human cargo”.

Maddie Harris of the Humans for Rights Network is also aware that some asylum seekers have disappeared from hotels since the relocation was announced. She warned that many asylum seekers in the UK could go into hiding to avoid being relocated.

“It’s a policy that trades human life for money,” she said. “This forces people out of the asylum system in dire straits for fear of being deported, which greatly increases the risk of exploitation.”

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘This Global Partnership for Migration and Economic Development will overhaul our broken asylum system, which is currently costing the UK taxpayer £1.5billion a year – the the highest amount for two decades. There is nothing in the UN refugee convention that prevents removal to a safe country. Under this agreement, Rwanda will process requests in accordance with national and international human rights laws.


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