Asylum seekers could be sent to Rwanda for “staying in Brussels with friends for a few weeks” while traveling to the UK, or because they were found with foreign receipts and train tickets in their pockets.
The Home Office guidance – released after threats of legal action by refugee organizations – gives examples of reasons why people may be selected for deportation under Priti Patel’s new scheme.
Ukrainian refugees have not been excluded, according to official documents, which suggest anyone who has traveled “through safe third countries” such as Poland or France can be considered.
They say asylum seekers can be sent to Rwanda if their application is deemed “inadmissible” under government policy and they arrived by small boat or other “dangerous” method after January 1.
A document on what constitutes ‘inadmissibility’ says it includes people believed to have a connection to a safe country other than the UK or their home country.
That means they were recognized as refugees in this country, traveled through it, applied for asylum there or could have applied there “after weighing up the probability”.
The guidance for Home Office staff gives examples of how an asylum seeker who has ‘passed through Belgium’ before arriving in the UK could be declared inadmissible.
“An admission by the applicant that he had spent a few weeks in Brussels with friends while trying to find an agent to take him illegally to the UK would likely constitute evidence that he had been in that particular country ‘ it says.
“The decision would also need to consider whether the applicant presented exceptional circumstances as to why he was unable to apply for protection in that particular country.”
The document states that even if asylum seekers deny having previously been in a safe country, “material in their belongings such as receipts and tickets from Belgian shops, services and transport showing time and freedom of movement in Belgium is likely to meet the required standard of proof would fulfil”.
Staff must weigh any evidence that the receipts did not belong to that person or that “extraordinary circumstances” meant they could not stay in Belgium, the guide adds.
It states that deportation to Rwanda should be considered if it “has a greater chance” than deportation to the country with which they have ties.
Before Brexit, the UK was part of an EU-wide regime that allowed asylum seekers to be returned to countries where they had previously stayed.
Britain sent thousands of people to France, Belgium and other countries deemed responsible for them, but the deal has not been replaced by the EU and individual nations have said so The Independent they will not negotiate the bilateral “return deals” originally promised by the government.
Stay in France if you don’t want to go to Rwanda, the minister tells asylum seekers
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) has been vocal in its opposition to the Rwanda deal, saying it “evades international obligations and violates the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.”
Officials have said there is no international legal obligation obliging refugees to seek asylum in the “first safe country they reach,” a key claim underpinning government policy.
“If all refugees were obliged to stay in the first safe country they encounter, the whole system would probably collapse,” UNHCR added.
“Countries closer to conflict and displacement zones would be completely overwhelmed, while countries further afield would have little or no responsibility. That would not be fair or practical and violates the spirit of the Convention.”
Under UK law, asylum can only be sought within the UK and there is no visa available for people wishing to reach the country specifically for that purpose.
That means people who are not eligible for limited resettlement programs must travel to the country on their own.
Refugee charities have repeatedly urged the government to set up alternative routes that eliminate the need to cross the English Channel, rather than pursuing increasingly punitive “deterrents”.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said the government was “not interested in taking the necessary practical steps”.
“They could easily issue humanitarian visas and new ways for people to reunite their families here, but instead they continue to push cruel and pointless asylum plans,” said interim chief executive Paola Uccellari.
“It’s time Priti Patel stopped dreaming up diabolical ways to treat people seeking safety here – be it deporting people to Rwanda or opening prison-like asylum camps in rural Yorkshire. What we need are fair and effective asylum rules that give people a chance to come here safely and make a living in our communities.”
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: “If this government really wanted to put a stop to people smugglers, it would allow all refugees in Calais to apply for visas, as they have done for Ukrainians.
“The question is, why wasn’t this cheaper, simpler, more humane option considered?”
The home secretary earlier this year dismissed a Conservative MP’s call for asylum procedures to be sought in France, telling parliament’s Home Affairs Committee that it would “make France a big magnet for more migrants”.
Amid a series of potential legal challenges to the Rwanda policy and the deportation of people notified they had been selected for it, the Home Office insisted the plans were lawful and that it would “robustly” defend any case.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/rwanda-asylum-guidance-belgium-inadmissible-b2075884.html Asylum seekers could be sent to Rwanda to “spend a few weeks in Brussels” on their way to the UK, the Home Office says