Asylum seekers already in the UK say Rwandan law creates new fears

On a cold spring day last month, 36-year-old Mohsen from Iran woke up before dawn and was rushed by smugglers onto a rubber boat on the coast of France.

Although the water was calm and the sky clear, he said he was aware of the dangers of the journey he was about to undertake. At least since 2018, 72 people The International Organization for Migration says some people have drowned while trying to cross the English Channel.

He said he fled Iran after participating in anti-government protests last year after police came to his home and threatened to arrest him.

Mohsen asked for only his first name to be published because he feared it could affect his asylum claim, but he was willing to risk drowning for a chance at a new life in the UK. He said he would not mind it. And she boarded the ship despite knowing of the British government’s plans, first announced in 2022, to deport some asylum seekers to the central African nation of Rwanda.

“What can I do? What other options did I have?” he said. “To be honest, I’m worried, especially after Monday. It seems like the rules are changing every day.”

Britain’s Conservative government on Monday aimed to pave the way for the start of deportation flights to Rwanda in the summer, despite an earlier ruling by the UK Supreme Court ruling that Rwanda was unsafe for refugees. Passed controversial laws. Parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, tried unsuccessfully for months to amend the bill, with a former Conservative prime minister behind it. saying He argued that ignoring the country’s highest court had set an “extremely dangerous precedent.”

Under the plan, some asylum seekers would have their claims heard in Rwanda and, even if approved, would not be allowed to resettle there and live in the UK. Anyone who arrived in the UK after January 1, 2022 and traveled by dangerous means in a small boat or surreptitious truck, or who entered the country via a ‘safe third country’, could be sent to Rwanda. There is sex. according to government guidance. Due to legislation and other recent government policies, currently There are few ways to apply for asylum. In the UK, there are some exceptions such as Ukrainians and Hong Kong nationals.

Charities and rights groups supporting asylum seekers say many have expressed concern about Rwanda’s troubled human rights record and fear of being deported has been on the sidelines for months or even years. He said this has increased his anxiety about living in prison.

Habibullah, 28, said he fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took over and arrived by boat last year, killing his father and brother. He asked that only his first name be used due to his safety concerns.

“I would die if I went to Afghanistan,” he said, but added that going to Rwanda would be just as daunting. He said he had been seeing a doctor for depression since receiving a letter from the British government last June informing him of possible deportation.

He said his route from Afghanistan took him through Iran, Bulgaria, Austria, Switzerland and France, sometimes without food. He said he couldn’t bear to be kicked out after all the hardships he had put in.

“I came to Britain for Britain,” he said, sitting in the harshly lit cafeteria of the south London hotel where he and other asylum seekers are being held.

One of the hotel’s residents said she had survived rape and torture in Botswana. Another person fled the Syrian civil war. They all said they feared ending up in Rwanda.

Marvin George Bumwite, 27, said he left his home in Uganda, which borders Rwanda and has strict anti-gay laws, after his family found out he was gay and criticized them.

“Rwanda may be safe for others, but it’s not safe for everyone,” he says. “We are not gay. Rwanda is not safe for us.”

Rwanda has changed since the devastating 1994 genocide. Although Rwanda has prospered, the government has also been accused of repression and human rights abuses. Although being gay is not illegal in Rwanda, it is often stigmatized, and Human Rights Watch has documented that: Arbitrary detention in the LGBTQ community.

In November, the UK Supreme Court declared the Rwanda policy illegal. The report found that there are good grounds to believe that asylum seekers sent to the country face a real risk of abuse as a result of “refoulement.” This means refugees can be returned to their countries of origin and face violating violence and abuse. both in English and international law.

The new law aims to overturn the court’s ruling by declaring Rwanda safe and instructing judges and immigration officers to consider Rwanda safe, according to lawyers in the House of Lords. This strategy was called.legal fiction.On Monday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government would begin detaining asylum seekers immediately, with the first deportation flights scheduled for late June or early July. But legal challenges are expected, which could prevent the plane from taking off.

The government’s policy is based on the theory that asylum seekers will reconsider traveling to the UK if they believe they will end up in Rwanda. But that remains to be seen. Ships have been arriving for several months, at least since Sunak said he would continue to press ahead with the plan.

Hours after the policy was passed, five people, including a child, died trying to cross from France in an overcrowded rubber boat. Sunak said the deaths highlighted the need for a Rwanda plan.

“When you push people out to sea, tragic things happen,” he told reporters on Tuesday, referring to smugglers. “That’s why, first and foremost, out of compassion, we have to actually disrupt this business model and end the injustice for people who enter the country illegally.”

Although some asylum seekers interviewed by The New York Times said they would have still tried to come despite the Rwandan policy, Bamwite said the Rwandan policy discouraged at least some African asylum seekers. He said that he believed there was a possibility of discouraging people from thinking about it.

“No one is going to come to Britain to be taken to Africa,” he says.

According to the latest UK government data: As of Decemberapproximately 95,252 asylum applications were awaiting initial decisions.

Some, like Mohammed al-Muhandes, 53, stay in hotels, are prohibited from working and rely on government support.

Muhandes, who fled Yemen after fearing for his life during the country’s civil war, applied for asylum in the UK in July last year and spent several months in a hotel in Leeds, northern England. “This tunnel is dark and there is no light at the end,” he said. “You’re just waiting for someone to come and let the light shine in.”

Lack of clarity over who the Rwanda plan applies to has created an atmosphere of fear in hotels, shared houses and other locations where many asylum seekers are waiting for answers to their cases.

“To be honest, I feel terrible,” said Reza Kademi, 24, from Bradford in northern England. Mr Kadhemi arrived from Iran in August last year after police arrived at his home threatening to arrest him for participating in protests against the Iranian government and posting critical posts on social media.

“I didn’t want to leave. I had a job, a family, a house and a car,” Kademi said. “Now, let’s start from zero.”

She said her mother and father called her in tears after hearing about the latest bill. Because of the way he traveled (he took planes and did not stop in “safe” third countries), the law may not apply to him. In response to questions from The Times, the Home Office said it does not comment on individual cases.

Still, the uncertainty is causing stress, Kademi said, noting that gray streaks have suddenly appeared in her dark brown hair.

“Every day I read articles about Rwanda, about Rwanda, about how they are going to send us, and it makes me very nervous,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.”

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