Rwanda plan expanded to include failed asylum seekers

A passenger plane pictured in the sky in front of a cloudy sky
Thousands more people could now be eligible for deportation under the expanded Rwanda scheme [Getty Images]

Failed asylum seekers could be sent to Rwanda following an expansion of deportation plans from the Home Office.

Under the original plan, only those who arrived in the UK on or after 1 January 2022 could be deemed eligible for deportation.

But now the agreement between the UK and Rwanda is being expanded to include people who have already had a claim refused or withdrawn and are unable to appeal.

Campaigners say they will launch a legal challenge to the proposals.

Plans to send some asylum seekers to Africa have met with fierce criticism and the scheme could still be held up in the courts.

Asylum Aid, one of the UK's leading organisations that helps victims of torture and trafficking, is among the groups that say they are preparing legal action.

Earlier this week, Northern Ireland's High Court ruled that large parts of the Illegal Migration Act should not apply in NI because they breach human rights laws.

The ruling raises significant questions about the long-term viability of the plan to refuse some asylum seekers a hearing and send them to Rwanda.

The Home Office said the judgement would not affect the "cohort currently being detained" as they "do not fall under the Illegal Migration Act" and "can be removed through existing legislation".

Failed asylum seekers are already eligible for the voluntary removals scheme, where they are offered up to £3,000 to move to the east African country. The Home Office has not said how many people have taken up this offer, which was announced in April.

Wednesday’s announcement suggests that people who do not agree to go voluntarily could still be detained and deported.

The government said failed asylum seekers would also be offered a support package, lasting up to five years, which includes provisions for education, training, employment and accommodation.

According to government figures, there were 24,310 refusals of asylum claims and 24,027 withdrawals last year alone.

"Those who have no right to remain in the UK should not be allowed to stay," Home Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement announcing the expansion of the plan.

"We have a safe third country ready and waiting to accept people, offer them support across the board, and help rebuild their lives."

The Home Office said the first flights to Rwanda are on track to take off within nine weeks.

It has begun detaining migrants in preparation for sending a flight in the summer.

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