UK Announces Asylum seekers to be Offshored From the UK to Rwanda
Prime minister, Boris Johnston, has announced a new UK government policy to ‘export’ some asylum seekers to Rwanda. Export is our immigration solicitors description for the plans . The official wording is ‘offshoring’. Our immigration lawyers take a look at the government’s migration partnership with Rwanda and asylum plans.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Lawyers and Asylum Solicitors
What is asylum offshoring?
The UK government has signed a migration partnership with Rwanda to offshore asylum seekers wanting to start a new life in the UK. The plan involves transporting asylum seekers who entered the UK illegally to Rwanda on what is described in the media as ‘a one way ticket’.
Many have questioned the government plans, assuming that asylum claims would simply be processed in Rwanda and successful applicants would get a ticket back to the UK and unsuccessful applicants a ticket to their home country. That isn’t the case; Rwanda is the planned end destination.
Home secretary, Priti Patel has said ‘we have signed a world-leading Migration Partnership with Rwanda which can see those arriving dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily into the UK relocated to have their claims for asylum considered and, if recognised as refugees, to build their lives there. This will help break the people smugglers' business model and prevent loss of life, while ensuring protection for the genuinely vulnerable’.
The rationale behind offshoring
The UK borrowed much of its recent points based immigration system from Australia. The recent announcement of offshoring of asylum seekers also follows the attempts of Australia to offshore asylum seekers. The historians amongst the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors question whether the UK will look any further back in Australian history for immigration policy.
The government rationale behind the planned offshoring is that it will deter asylum seekers from entering the UK illegally and placing their lives at risk in small boats and English channel crossings. The government hopes that the profitability of people smuggling will suffer if asylum seekers realise it is likely that risking the English channel will lead to a future in Rwanda, rather than in the UK. Critics of the offshoring scheme say offshoring is illegal and will prove more expensive than processing the growing number of small boat asylum seekers in the UK. What is certain is that there will be numerous legal changes to the offshoring scheme, ranging from challenges over:
- Is the offshoring scheme legal?
- The selection of asylum seekers for transportation to Rwanda and the process of what is referred to as ‘initial screening’ for selection to be sent to Rwanda .
- The human rights record in Rwanda and whether specific groups of asylum seekers will suffer hardship in Rwanda, such as LGBTQ asylum seekers.
- Whether, if offshoring is legal, it is right to deny a successful asylum seeker the right to return to the UK to make the UK their home?
Offshoring – the detail
Offshoring is officially referred to as a new ‘Migration and Economic Development Partnership’ between Rwanda in East Africa and the UK and is limited to asylum seekers who arrive in the UK by illegal means rather than waiting in the hope of legal entry to seek asylum in the UK. The numbers to be offshored to Rwanda is not limited.
Initial screening of suitable applicants for offshoring will take place in the UK but the asylum seeker’s substantive asylum claim will be determined in Rwanda. If a claim is rejected, the asylum seeker will apparently have the choice of staying in Rwanda or returning to their home country.
Of concern to immigration solicitors is the government announcement that it plans to make changes to domestic UK laws in order to ‘streamline the court process and prevent repeated unmeritorious legal claims’. Asylum lawyers are concerned about not only the selection of asylum seekers for offshoring in Rwanda but also the ability to challenge the decision on human rights or other grounds and the extent of access to immigration legal advice for those sent to Rwanda.
When will offshoring start?
The government has announced that offshoring to Rwanda will start in the coming weeks as they maintain the plans are consistent and compliant with current UK immigration and asylum law (presumably they mean if the Nationality and Borders Bill becomes law as the Bill provides for an asylum seeker to be removed to a ‘safe’ country) and also with international law, including the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.
Any asylum seeker who entered the UK after the 1 January 2022 can be considered for relocation to Rwanda unless they entered the UK legally as an asylum claimant. The intention is to encourage the legal route to asylum claims and deter those who have travelled through a country that is deemed safe before reaching the UK or those who have a connection to a safe country. Critics of the announcement are already questioning whether the business model of people smugglers will be jeopardised by the offshore policy because many asylum seekers are so desperate to reach the UK that they will accept the new additional risk of offshoring.
Is there any right of return to the UK after offshoring?
The offshoring plans do say that the UK can ask Rwanda to return a ‘relocated’ asylum seeker to the UK on request if the UK is legally obligated to accept the return of the asylum seeker. This suggests the UK government is anticipating successful challenges to its offshoring policy.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors and Asylum Lawyers