Unaccompanied 16-year-olds to be sent to Rwanda in first wave of deportations

Charities have warned that vulnerable children and traumatised adults are among the majority of asylum-seekers being sent to Africa under the government's new immigration policies

The UK intends to provide those deemed to have arrived unlawfully with a one-way ticket to Rwanda. EPA
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Unaccompanied children are on the list of people who have been told they will be deported from the UK to Rwanda, according to a charity working with those affected.

Care4Calais, which is supporting 80 out of the 100 people that have been sent the Government’s “Notice of Intent” to deport to Rwanda, said two of the boys on the Home Office’s list said they are only 16 years old.

“It is essential that proper age assessments are done before any deportation takes place,” said Clare Moseley, the charity’s founder.

“One 16-year-old saw his brother killed in front of him when his village was raided in Sudan. He escaped and went back later to find the whole village gone.”

An international human rights organisation working to end child trafficking said that incorrectly classing people under 18 put them at “serious risk of exploitation”.

Love146UK says the Home Office often gives a standard age of 23 to younger asylum seekers and that its officials had seen children who were clearly under 18, including 14 year olds, being given a birth year of 1999.

Legal challenges are being launched to help protect the “contested” children but there are widespread concerns over a lack of legal advice available to asylum seekers.

Last month, Refugee Action released a report in which it mapped legal aid provisions for people seeking asylum across the UK and found that every region except London had a “huge shortfall”.

Written by legal aid expert Dr Jo Wilding, the report found that some cities to which people seeking asylum are “dispersed” have as few as one legal aid case worker.

The research also found that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were being sent to local authorities in areas where there are no legal aid solicitors.

“It means that people are missing out on refugee status or immigration status that they are entitled to, and driving poverty and destitution in the UK as a result,” said Dr Wilding.

Refugee Action’s chief executive said it was “hugely concerning” that accessing justice is “so difficult” for asylum seekers at a time when the government planned to launch its controversial offshoring system.

“Too many errors are already made on asylum decisions. With refugees being sent to remote accommodation centres, 5,000 miles away to Rwanda, or home to face violence and persecution, it is vital they can get legal advice,” said Tim Naor Hilton.

Last week, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that at least 15 Syrians were scheduled to be on the first government deportation flight to Rwanda.

The first flight is scheduled to depart on June 14 and all prospective deportees are currently being held in detention centres.

According to Care4Calais, about a third of people selected to go to Rwanda are from Sudan, with people from Syria making up the next biggest group after that.

Every single person the charity spoke to was “shocked and traumatised” at the prospect of being flown 4,500 miles away.

They said that an estimated 70 per cent of those with Rwanda notices had suffered torture or trafficking.

“As a result, many have serious physical and mental scars and are finding the intense stress of detention, coupled with the threat of being sent Rwanda, intolerable,” said Ms Mosely.

“The ‘logic’ to the Rwanda plan is that we take people who, by definition, have escaped from the very worst things in this world, who are so desperate they are willing to get in frightening and flimsy boats to cross the Channel, and present them with something that fills them with even more terror in order to deter them from coming. Is this really what we, as a civilised nation, want to do?”

Updated: June 06, 2022, 11:07 AM