Asylum seekers facing deportation from Britain to Rwanda are given as few as seven days to appeal, and told they should have sought refuge in another country, leaked documents reveal.
The government is sticking to its plans to deter migrants who arrive in on small boats and hidden in lorries by dispatching them to Africa despite strong objections from human rights groups, the UN, opposition MPs and the head of the Church of England.
Some asylum seekers have already been told they are facing expulsion and have received paperwork, published by ITV News, selling Rwanda as the “land of a thousand hills” and describing it as a safe and welcoming country.
The brochure tells people they are facing deportation because they travelled through “a safe third country where you should, or could have, claimed asylum”, typically referring to France.
Migrants who believe they should not be deported are given seven days to provide a written appeal if they are being kept in detention, or 14 days if they were not in detention when they received the paperwork.
They are told they will receive “removal directions” at least five days before being deported to Rwanda, with an offer of up to £3,000 ($3,790) to help them return to their country of origin if they withdraw their application for asylum.
Responding to the leak, Stephen Kinnock, the opposition Labour Party’s spokesman on immigration, said the Rwanda plan was about “chasing headlines” rather than deterring dangerous English Channel crossings.
“It’s a completely unworkable, extortionately expensive, and deeply un-British policy,” Mr Kinnock said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose department is carrying out the programme, has defended the policy to her critics at the UN by insisting she is trying to save lives by deterring perilous Channel crossings.
Ms Patel overruled concerns from her top civil servant that the policy was poor value for money because there was no clear evidence it would actually deter people from seeking asylum in Britain.
Thousands of people have crossed the Channel in small boats this year, and 27 people drowned last November in the worst such accident on record. Ministers have promised to use Britain’s post-Brexit autonomy to curb immigration.
Rwanda last month signed up to the arrangement after being offered £120 million ($150m) in development assistance and funding to provide accommodation for the incoming refugees.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury who drew the ire of ministers for speaking out against the plan, told Channel 4 News that it would have been cowardly for him not to do so.
Mr Welby had said in an Easter Sunday sermon that there were serious ethical questions about the policy and that passing the buck to Rwanda was contrary to “the nature of God”.
“I remember writing it – it was about six lines – and just wishing I didn’t have to,” Mr Welby recounted, but “to have avoided those issues would have been cowardly.”