Refugee Council claims only 2% of migrants eligible for UK's Rwanda scheme

Britain plans to send thousands of Channel asylum seekers to Africa

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The UK's plan to send thousands of Channel migrants to Rwanda could fall short as research by the Refugee Council indicates fewer than 200 people a year could be eligible.

It claims that the latest Home Office asylum figures show just 2 per cent of applicants would have met the government's criteria last year.

The Refugee Council said only 172 of the 8,593 asylum applications last year would have been judged eligible under the asylum rules.

Under the new scheme Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposes to transfer some of the thousands of people expected to arrive in the UK this year in small boats and in the backs of lorries to the east African country.

Rules introduced in January last year apply to those arriving illegally via a “safe” country such as France where migrants could already have made a claim for asylum.

“In 2021, there were around 28,500 people detected arriving in the UK on small boats (8,500 in 2020),” the Home Office said.

“People making these crossings have passed through safe countries where it’s reasonable to assume they could have claimed asylum. These are dangerous journeys which we want to discourage people from making.

“Therefore, to deter people from making these journeys to the UK we will seek the rapid removal of these individuals to the safe country from which they travelled to the UK or to another safe country.”

It says the number being sent to Rwanda will increase as it has been deemed a safe country.

However, many migrants crossing the Channel do not enter the UK illegally because they have been given assistance by the authorities, such as the coastguard.

The government's scheme has met with opposition from the UN, the UK’s must senior church leader and human rights groups.

The planned policy does not offer the prospect of successfully claiming for asylum to the UK, but would mean starting a new life in the east African country 9,600 kilometres away. The scheme has not yet started, with the UK anticipating legal challenges.

The UK will pay Rwanda an initial £120 million ($154m), but critics say the final cost is expected to run into billions.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has promoted the scheme as an effort to disrupt the business model of people smugglers.

“The UK government is lurching from one inhumane policy to the next in relation to the lives of refugees, none of which address the reason why people take perilous journeys to find safety in the UK,” Enver Solomon, the head of the Refugee Council, said.

“The decision to send those seeking sanctuary in our country to Rwanda is cruel and nasty. Treating people like human cargo by using the force of military to repel vulnerable people who have already endured extreme human suffering and expelling them to centres in Rwanda, a country with a questionable record on human rights, is dangerous, cruel and inhumane.

Migrants arrive at Dover Marina after being picked up by the border force in April.  Getty Images

“We know these policies will do little to deter desperate people from seeking protection or stop the smugglers but only lead to more human suffering, chaos and at huge expense to the UK taxpayer of an estimated £1.4 billion a year.”

The Home Office has dismissed the analysis, saying the number of people that would be sent to Rwanda was “uncapped".

“This world-leading migration and economic development partnership will overhaul our broken asylum system, which is currently costing the UK taxpayer £1.5bn a year — the highest amount in two decades,” it said in a statement.

“Under this agreement, Rwanda will process claims in accordance with national and international human rights laws. It means those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily can be relocated to have their asylum claims considered and, if recognised as refugees, build their lives there.

“We do not recognise the figures derived from this analysis. The agreement is uncapped in terms of the numbers of people who may be sent to Rwanda.”

This week the government's Nationality and Borders Bill will enter its final parliamentary stages and make it a criminal offence to cross the Channel without prior authorisation to enter the UK.

Updated: April 25, 2022, 11:53 AM