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Concerns over treatment of gay asylum seekers in Home Office report as Priti Patel pushes ahead with Rwanda plan


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Gay and trans asylum seekers could be arrested and mistreated in Rwanda according to a Home Office report – but Priti Patel will push ahead with deportation plans anyway.

The Home Secretary has said the first refugees will be told they "could" be flown to Africa this week.

The Home Office has said that LGBTQI+ refugees 'may face greater risk of ill-treatment'. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA
The Home Office has said that LGBTQI+ refugees 'may face greater risk of ill-treatment'. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA

A Home Office report found the county "safe to relocate people to" despite the department previously saying gay people were at risk of mistreatment and transgender people could be arrested.

Described by Ms Patel as a “world-first” agreement when it was announced last month, the scheme will see asylum seekers who are deemed to have arrived in the UK “illegally” sent to Rwanda, where their claims will be processed.

If successful, they will be granted asylum or given refugee status in the country.

Those with failed bids will be offered the chance to apply for visas under other immigration routes if they wish to remain in Rwanda but could still face deportation.

But a Home Office report has noted the countries' views on sexual orientation may potentially harm some refugees.

The assessment carried out before the UK-Rwanda agreement found “some concerns with its human rights record around political opposition to the current regime, dissent and free speech”.

Whilst migrants continue to arrive in Dover, the government has confirmed that the first flights to Rwanda will be in the coming months. Picture: UKNIP
Whilst migrants continue to arrive in Dover, the government has confirmed that the first flights to Rwanda will be in the coming months. Picture: UKNIP

New guidance published by the Home Office on Monday evening stated that Rwanda is “a safe country to relocate people to”.

The department said it will carry out a case-by-case risk assessment when determining someone’s eligibility for relocation and take any vulnerabilities, including disabilities, sexual orientation and gender reassignment status, into account.

It also noted that transgender people “may face greater risk of ill-treatment such as arbitrary arrests and detention as well as degrading treatment”, adding “no one will be relocated if it is unsafe or inappropriate”.

There were also “concerns over the treatment of some LGBTQI+ people” in Rwanda, but this did not “amount to persecution or serious harm”, the Home Office said.

It also pointed to unverified reports that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers had faced challenges in registering their claims, but said Rwanda had committed to treating all refugees equally and that “ongoing monitoring arrangements” are in place to manage the risk.

At least 7,739 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel this year so far. Picture: UKNIP
At least 7,739 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel this year so far. Picture: UKNIP

“We will continue to consider the impact on this group and take into account further evidence over the course of the partnership,” the Home Office said.

The first flights to the East African nation have been confirmed by the department will be “in the coming months”.

Previously the Prime Minister reportedly said he wanted to see the first flights take off by the end of May, but officials are still unable to say when exactly removals could begin and how many people the Government is initially seeking to deport.

Ms Patel said: “The world-leading migration partnership with Rwanda means those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK may be relocated to Rwanda to have their claims for asylum considered and to rebuild their lives there, helping break the people smugglers’ business model and prevent loss of life."

Last Friday, activists accused Ms Patel of “racist” and “inhumane” policies and called on her to scrap the Rwanda deal during a speech she was giving at a Conservative Party dinner.

At least 7,739 people have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel this year so far, according to a PA news agency analysis of government figures.

This is more than three times the amount that had arrived in the same period in 2021 (2,439).

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action – which is one of the organisations threatening legal action against the plan, said: “There’s nothing ‘world-first’ about this agreement – it’s a neo-colonial embarrassment that seeks to trade black and brown refugees for money with a country whose human rights record is abysmal.

“Terrible harm is already being done – people are terrified of receiving these letters, including asylum seeking children who have arrived in the UK on their own. We’ll see the Government in court.”

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