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What is the UK’s Plan to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda?

The UK government wants to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The High Court ruled in December 2022 that the scheme is legal, but that decision is facing further challenge in the courts.

What is the Rwanda asylum plan?

The five-year trial would see some asylum seekers sent to Rwanda on a one-way ticket, to claim asylum there.

They may be granted refugee status to stay in Rwanda. If not, they can apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a “safe third country”.

The government says this will deter people arriving in the UK through “illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods”, such as on small boats which cross the English Channel.

However, the numbers crossing have not fallen since the policy was announced on 14 April 2022.

More than 45,700 people used this route to come to the UK in 2022, the highest figure since records began.

Opponents argue that Rwanda is not a safe destination for asylum seekers and that the scheme breaks human rights laws.

But in December 2022 the High Court said that the plan is legal and that it does not breach the UN’s Refugee Convention.

However, on 16 January, the High Court ruled that the some of the groups who lost the case had the right to appeal against parts of its decision.

The appeal hearing took place between Monday 24 April and Thursday 27 April. The judges did not give a date when the verdict will be announced.

Flights cannot take off to Rwanda while legal proceedings are still ongoing.

No asylum seeker has actually been sent to the country so far. The first flight was scheduled to go in June 2022, but was cancelled after legal challenges.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman insists Rwanda is a safe country for migrants, telling the BBC that the country has “a track record of successfully resettling and integrating people who are refugees or asylum seekers”.

How many people could be sent to Rwanda?

The UK government previously said “anyone entering the UK illegally” after 1 January 2022 could be sent, with no limit on numbers.

Rwanda says it can process 1,000 asylum seekers during the trial period, but has capacity for more.

Under the deal, Rwanda can also ask the UK to take in some of its most vulnerable refugees.

But in October 2022, Privilege Style – the airline which was scheduled to take asylum seekers to Rwanda – withdrew from its Home Office contract, after a campaign by refugee charities.

At the time the Guardian reported that two other airlines which had previously conducted deportation flights, Titan Airways and AirTanker, had also ruled out participation in the Rwanda scheme.

How much will the plan cost?

So far the UK has paid the Rwandan government £140m for the scheme.

Other costs include flights to Rwanda, food, accommodation, access to translators and legal advice. Removing people from the UK by charter flight cost more than £13,000 per person in 2020.

When the policy was first announced, then Home Office Minister Tom Pursglove said the cost would be “similar to the amount of money we are spending on this currently”. He said that “longer term, by getting this under control, it should help us to save money”.

The UK’s asylum system costs £1.5bn a year. Almost £7m a day is spent on hotel accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers.

Critics say the daily cost is so high because of the time taken to decide on applications, and a ban on asylum seekers working while waiting for confirmation of their status.

What is an asylum seeker?

The UN Refugee Agency defines an asylum seeker as someone who has applied for shelter and protection in another country.

A refugee is a person who has fled conflict or persecution in their own country.

The legal rights of refugees are protected by international law. However, it is up to host countries to decide whether an asylum seeker is granted refugee status.

In 2022, the UK received more than 89,000 asylum applications, the highest number for 20 years. Of these, more than 23,800 people and their dependants were granted a form of protection.

Source : BBC