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Friday 15 July 2022

Syrians in the UK call for an end to Rwanda threats

Photo: Priti Patel meeting Syrian refugee children in 2017 when she was Secretary of State for International Development. Photo by Robert Oxley, DFID.

The UK’s Rwanda removals policy threatens vulnerable Syrians, survivors of torture and war.

With the UK Government continuing to threaten asylum seekers with removal to Rwanda, Syrian organisations in the UK have written to Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Many were shocked and surprised when several Syrian asylum seekers were amongst the first to be threatened by the new removals policy. Syrians are known to be fleeing one of the most brutal regimes on the planet.

Incredibly, the UK’s Rwanda removals policy is being run by individuals with clear knowledge of the Assad regime’s brutality.

The current Home Secretary Priti Patel was formerly Secretary of State for International Development from 2016 to 2017, responsible for delivering aid to millions of Syrians who were forced to flee Assad and Putin’s bombs.

And the top civil servant at the Home Office, Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft, was previously responsible for Syria aid from 2018 to 2020 as Permanent Secretary for International Development, and he was the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2015 to 2018, where he spoke on the Assad regime’s use of torture and mass murder, its targeting of medics and aid workers.

Despite this, we have already seen Patel and Rycroft put asylum seekers in UK army camps—including Syrians, including injured survivors of Assad’s bombs, including survivors of torture—and we have seen them threaten asylum seekers with dangerous forced pushbacks at sea.

This Government has in the past welcomed tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Amongst the first Syrian asylum seekers to be listed for removal to Rwanda were ones whose close family members had already been given refuge in the UK. But being Syrian is no protection from this Government’s range of threats towards asylum seekers.

The Rwanda policy is in the process of being challenged in the courts. At the same time the governing Conservative Party is in the process of selecting a new leader—a new Prime Minister for Britain. The press have been briefed that there will be no flights before that election is complete. That’s not good enough. It means the Government is still preparing for removals, still threatening and detaining vulnerable asylum seekers.

We believe the Rwanda removals policy violates the UN Convention for Refugees.

In short, the policy is illegal under international law. When a government puts itself above the law, it is on a path to tyranny, as we see in Syria. So our call is not just for the UK Government to act humanely, it is for the Government to respect the institutions of law and to suspend removals to Rwanda until after the final determination of the lawfulness of their policy, in national and international courts.

Below is the letter in full. PDF version here.