More than 50 per cent of refugee applications made by Rwandans in the UK this year were successful, despite the Home Office maintaining it was safe to deport asylum seekers to the East African nation.
Immigration statistics published by the government show that four of the seven Rwandans who this year applied for asylum in the UK were accepted, two were refused and one application was withdrawn.
The Home Office is reportedly planning a new deportation flight to Rwanda and has already sent out notices of intent to some asylum seekers informing them they might be on the plane.
The first scheduled flight to Kigali on June 14 was grounded hours before it was set to take off after a series of legal challenges culminating in a European Court of Human Rights decision forced the Home Office to cancel it.
An immigration lawyer in London told The National that the presence of Rwandan refugees in the UK raised serious questions over the safety of sending asylum seekers to the African nation.
“Why were those people recognised as refugees?” Sonia Lenegan said. “What were the risks they faced there such that they were given asylum?
“Home Office guidance says it is safe to send people there but obviously it isn’t safe for some people, to the extent that they are refugees here.”
While the reasons for the Rwandan applicants seeking asylum remain unclear, Ms Lenegan said the data “undermines the whole policy”.
“You can’t say that it is safe for everyone when clearly it isn’t,” she said.
In a statement sent to The National, a Home Office representative said that “all asylum claims made in the UK are carefully considered on their individual merits, against a background of relevant case law and up-to-date country information”.
Since 2015, 158 Rwandans, including dependents, had claimed asylum in the UK and 37 were granted protection in the form of asylum, resettlement or another form of leave.
The Home Office added that while Rwandans cannot be removed under the UK government's agreement with the East African nation, “a Rwandan who fails their asylum claim or becomes a foreign national offender can be removed under the usual process”.
At a High Court hearing on June 10, it was revealed that the Home Office made misleading statements about UN involvement in and support of the Rwanda plans.
However, the UN’s refugee agency has repeatedly expressed “serious concerns” over the scheme.
Clare Moseley, founder of the charity Care4Calais and party to the legal proceedings brought against the government, said she was worried about potential human rights abuse of refugees in Rwanda, “including that they could be forced to join the country’s army and sent to fight in neighbouring states”.
The most recent report from Amnesty International on Rwanda’s human rights record notes breaches of the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression and privacy. It also lists enforced disappearances, allegations of torture and excessive use of force.
Britain has already made payments to Rwanda as part of its £120 million ($147m) asylum scheme, which the Rwandan government confirmed it had already begun spending, despite legal challenges delaying the introduction of the policy.
No 10 Downing Street has not yet revealed how much the payments were nor when they were made under the “confidential” deal signed in April.
Ms Lenegan accused the UK of “taking advantage of Rwanda”.
“Why should the UK take advantage that it is richer than Rwanda to abdicate its responsibility under the Refugee Convention by paying them?” she asked.
The lawyer said the money would have been better invested in the Home Office, which has been plagued by a backlog of asylum cases and staff shortages.
“We could have seen some really positive changes, people wouldn’t be left in asylum accommodation for so long, we would have cleared out hotels a long time ago, we would have decisions on applications better and quicker,” she said.
A High Court hearing to determine whether the policy to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful is due to start on September 5 in London.