Syrian and Afghan refugees ‘on first deportation flight to Rwanda’

Politics

Syrian and Afghan refugees are believed to be on the list of people set to be deported to Rwanda in a fortnight, charities have said.

Zoe Gardner, head of policy and advocacy at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said 15 Syrians have been told they will be sent to Rwanda in two weeks.

Protect Civilians, a Syrian refugee advocacy group, said it believes there are both refugees from Syria and Afghanistan on that list.

Egyptians, Kurds and people from Chad are also set to be deported on the Rwanda flight, the group added.

The claims came as Home Secretary Priti Patel announced on Tuesday the government will deport its first set of migrants to Rwanda on 14 June.

The Home Office said it had started issuing formal removal notices to migrants as the “final administrative step” in its partnership with the east African nation.

Ms Patel said she expects there will still be attempts to delay the process, but she ‘will not be deterred’ from pushing ahead with the plans.

More on Migrant Crisis

Boris Johnson confirmed the plans in April, saying it would mean migrants using illegal routes – such as coming across the Channel – would be “swiftly and humanely removed to a third country or their country of origin”.

The policy has come under strong criticism by Labour and refugee charities, but Mr Johnson insisted those attempting to reach the UK by small boat were largely young men who were “not directly fleeing imminent peril”.

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Migrants stopped in the Channel

Ms Gardner said one of the JCWI’s clients is a Syrian who came to the UK by boat.

“There is no safe route to escape Syria. No visa to apply for or queue you can join to reach the UK,” she said.

“He was targeted by the regime and had to run. He has two sisters living here, where would you go? What welcome would you hope for?”

Home Office figures released last week revealed people fleeing Afghanistan were the largest migrant group crossing the Channel in the early part of 2022 after Western allies pulled out of the country in August 2021.

One in four people making the risky journey was from Afghanistan, with the figures showing almost as many Afghans crossing the Channel from January to March this year (1,094) as in the whole of 2021 (1,323).

Rwanda map

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the government of “chasing headlines regardless of reality” after the first flights to Rwanda were announced.

“The Rwanda scheme isn’t about deterring the criminal gangs or small boat crossings, it’s about chasing headlines regardless of reality,” she said.

“This is a completely unworkable, extortionately expensive, and deeply un-British policy.

“There is no proper process for identifying people who have been trafficked or tortured.”

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