Asylum-seeking families with children could be deported from the UK to Rwanda | Refugees

Families with children seeking asylum in the UK are being considered for forcible return to Rwanda, according to a Home Office minister.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said in evidence before the House Women and Equality Committee on Wednesday that while there are no plans to remove child applicants unaccompanied asylum to the East African country, families with children are being considered for removal.

Jenrick said that while a final decision has not been made, officials are concerned that excluding a particular group such as families could encourage traffickers to focus on trafficking families rather than single men.

“There is not necessarily a barrier to families being sent back to Rwanda,” Jenrick said.

The committee heard that so far only 3.5% of those who have received a notice of intent from the Ministry of Interior that they may be deported to Rwanda are women and no women has so far received an eviction order.

Forced removals of families to other countries rarely occur, according to Dan Hobbs, director of asylum, protection and enforcement at the Home Office, who also testified before the committee. However, the goal of Rwandan policy is to forcibly deport those targeted by the Ministry of Interior.

The government has said it hopes flights to Rwanda will resume as soon as possible after the end of ongoing legal proceedings over the legality of forcibly returning asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The high court concluded that the Rwandan policy was legal but allowed appeals against parts of the judges’ decision.

Jenrick told the committee that the government planned to increase the number of detained migrants.

“If we want to deport more people from the country, we will need to have a larger detained estate,” he said.

Maria Stephens, Campaigns Manager at Refugee Action, said: “The Rwanda deal is already a dirty trade in lives – but considering deporting families with children there when they have asked for protection of the UK is shameful.

“The limited number of families who come to the UK often do so to reunite with relatives, loved ones or community who are already here so they can rebuild their lives with support. Ministers risk breaking these crucial networks and punishing children and adults.

There has previously been speculation that families are being considered for deportation to Rwanda, but so far no asylum seekers have been flown out under the government’s controversial scheme.

The first flight was due to take off on June 14 last year but was grounded after a last-minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Guardian reported that Hope Hostel in Kigali, which is preparing for the arrival of asylum seekers from the UK, is building football and basketball pitches and providing outdoor toys.

Hostel manager Elisee Kalyango told the Guardian that children could be among those flown to his country. He said: “We are ready to handle people of all ages.”


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