Campaigners from several Poole churches gathered at Sandbanks beach on 29th October, urging the government to drop its scheme deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.


Protestors launched heart-shaped paper aeroplanes bearing the message, ‘Stop Rwanda’, which had been prepared by congregants from several Poole churches, St Mary’s RC church, St. George’s, Oakdale and Buckland Road Baptist church. Afterwards, the aeroplanes were gathered up and sent to local MPs.


“We are dismayed by this cruel plan to send vulnerable people to a country with a poor human rights record, “ explained Judith Williams, one of the organisers, from St Mary’s. “The government says it has a right to deport refugees who have arrived here without permission, but there are currently no legal routes for asylum seekers to reach the UK. These people have never had a chance to have their asylum claims processed.”


“We would like the government to show some compassion,” added Alison Sepping, a member of Poole Quaker meeting. “One deportation notice was sent to a heavily pregnant rape victim, and was only rescinded when her case gained national publicity.”


“”If you close down legal routes for refugees, you can’t be surprised when they find other ways to come here,” said Vikki Slade, who also attended the demonstration. Ms Slade, who is a local councillor and the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Mid Dorset North Poole, has fostered two unaccompanied refugee children.


“When you hear their accounts of the dangers they were facing in their home countries, you can understand why they had to escape,” she said.


The Refugee Council has raised fears that child refugees could also be sent to Rwanda, highlighting cases where the Home Office had wrongly calculated the ages of young asylum seekers.