24,083 asylum seekers were threatened with forcible removal to Rwanda between January 2021 and March 2023, according to Home Office data obtained through an FOI request. These “letters of intent” have been issued because the asylum seeker previously passed through a safe country before reaching the UK. The government has ruled that these refugees are not eligible for sanctuary in the UK.
Yet Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, has criticised as “political hyperbole” the description of Rwanda as “a destination for thousands of asylum seekers who arrived regularly in the United Kingdom”.
His judgment in the recent Appeal Court ruling on the Rwanda scheme throws doubt on the government’s ability to deport more than 100 asylum seekers.
He said: “The UNHCR evidence questions whether Rwanda can cope with the volumes apparently contemplated. Yet the evidence before the divisional court was that the physical capacity for housing asylum seekers in Rwanda was limited to 100; that of the 47 originally identified for removal the Home Office expected in fact to remove about 10; and that the starting point for any removal under the agreement was for the two governments to agree who would be sent to Rwanda.”
Hyperbole or not, the threats of removal have inflicted further trauma on asylum seekers, many of whom have survived modern slavery and torture, according to the refugee charity, Care4Calais.