Four Rwandans have reportedly been granted refugee status in Britain over “well-founded” fears of persecution, as Rishi Sunak pushes forward with legislation aimed at declaring the country a safe destination for asylum seekers.
The details of the cases are in addition to the six people who Home Office figures suggest had UK asylum claims approved between April 2022 and September 2023, according to the Observer.
The report threatens to undermine the Prime Minister’s position that Kigali is “unequivocally” safe – an argument which is central to his plan to revive the Government’s flagship asylum policy.
One of the Rwandans was a supporter of an opposition party led by Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the Observer reported.
He was reportedly granted asylum on October 12, the day after the Home Office concluded a case in the Supreme Court arguing the country was safe.
Another said he sought refuge in Britain because he feared he would be targeted in Rwanda over a family member’s suspected links to the opposition.
A Home Office letter dated October 17 last year reportedly accepted he had a “well-founded fear of persecution”.
It comes ahead of a crunch week for Mr Sunak’s Rwanda Bill, which aims to prevent further legal challenge to transferring asylum seekers to the east African nation, as it gets debated in the House of Lords.
The Supreme Court last year ruled against the Government’s plan to send people who arrive in Britain via small boat crossings in the English Channel to Kigali.
In a bid to save the policy, Mr Sunak has introduced legislation seeking to enable Parliament itself to deem Rwanda safe, as well as updating a treaty with the country.
The Government says the new agreement guarantees that anyone sent to Kigali to claim asylum would not be transferred to a third country where they could be at risk – a principle known as non-refoulement.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister’s Safety of Rwanda Bill passed its third reading in the Commons after he saw of a Tory rebellion which had sought to harden the legislation.
MPs on the right of the party largely backed down after speculation that the draft law could be torpedoed unless amendments were made, including to ensure UK and international law cannot be used to block a person’s removal to the country.
But the Bill will face a stiff test in the Lords, where many peers have already expressed deep unease about the asylum plan.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “People from many different nationalities apply for asylum in the UK. This includes nationals from some of our closest European neighbours and other safe countries around the world.
“As part of our response to the Supreme Court’s judgment, we have signed a treaty with Rwanda which makes clear that individuals relocated to Rwanda under the partnership will not be returned to an unsafe country.”
The High Commission of Rwanda has been contacted for comment.