UK Home Office Eyes Forced Removal of Asylum-Seeking Families to Rwanda

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The UK Home Office is considering the forced removal of families with children seeking asylum to Rwanda, according to Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick. Speaking at a parliamentary committee, Jenrick stated that while there are no plans to remove unaccompanied child asylum seekers to the East African country, officials are weighing the option of removing families with children. The concern is that ruling out a particular group, such as families, could encourage traffickers to focus on smuggling families instead of single males.

Jenrick clarified that a final decision has not been made, but officials are worried about the potential impact on trafficking. So far, only 3.5% of those who have received a Home Office notice of intent for removal to Rwanda are women and no women have received removal directions. Enforced removals of families to other countries happen rarely, according to Dan Hobbs, Home Office Director of Asylum, Protection, and Enforcement. The aim of the Rwanda policy is to forcibly remove those targeted by the Home Office.

The government hopes that Rwanda flights will resume soon, pending ongoing legal proceedings about the lawfulness of forcibly removing asylum seekers to Rwanda. The high court found the Rwanda policy to be lawful but has granted permission to appeal certain parts of the ruling.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick also announced plans to increase the number of detained migrants, stating that “If we want to remove more people from the country, we will need to have a larger detained estate.” The move has been criticized by human rights groups as a “grubby trade in human lives” and a “shameful” policy that could “break apart these crucial networks and punish children and adults.” Despite the controversy, the government has not yet removed any asylum seekers to Rwanda under the scheme, with the first flight scheduled for June 14, 2020, but was grounded due to a last-minute intervention from the European court of human rights.

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