The United Kingdom government’s plan to deport “illegal” asylum seekers to Rwanda has been met with widespread criticism and concern for the safety and well-being of those affected. A gay Rwandan refugee, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, has spoken out against the plan, urging the government to see asylum seekers as human beings and not simply as a problem to be deported.
Innocent, who fled to the UK as a refugee after facing homophobic bullying in Rwanda, was horrified to hear of the government’s plan to send those it deems “illegal” back to the country. Despite legal challenges and criticism from human rights advocates, the scheme, spearheaded by former Home Secretary Priti Patel and continued by her successor Suella Braverman, was deemed lawful by the High Court in December 2022.
This decision, however, is at odds with the experiences of those like Innocent, who know that Rwanda is not a safe place for LGBTQ+ individuals. A government assessment that found “LGBT+ people did not face a real risk of persecution” in Rwanda is directly contradicted by the testimony of those who have lived in the country.
Innocent calls on Braverman and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to send delegates to Rwanda to better understand the situation for LGBTQ+ people before making any decisions. He urges the government to see asylum seekers as human beings with stories and experiences, rather than simply as a problem to be deported.
Rainbow Migration, a charity that advocates for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, also renews its call for the government to abandon the Rwanda plan. A spokesperson states that the scheme “presents a real danger to anyone seeking asylum in the UK, and especially LGBTQI+ people,” and highlights the lack of legal protection and rampant discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in Rwanda.
As a nation founded on the principles of fairness and justice, the United Kingdom must not turn a blind eye to the human rights of those seeking asylum within its borders. The government’s Rwanda plan must be reconsidered and abandoned in favor of a more humane and just approach to the treatment of asylum seekers.