As a group of organisations based in Swansea, we utterly condemn the UK government’s policy of “off-shoring” asylum seekers, whether by sending them to Rwanda or to any other country to be “processed”. We invite others in Swansea to endorse this statement.
We are proud that our city of Swansea is a City of Sanctuary. However, the Rwanda deportation policy is having a chilling and traumatising effect on people who have fled violence and persecution and found welcome and support here.
For example, one of the volunteers for Swansea Asylum Seekers Support knows a Kurdish family here in Wales who rejoiced in late May when they learned that their son, age 19, had crossed the channel after nearly a year separated from him. Days later they learned he had been detained near Heathrow and served notice of deportation to Rwanda. Obviously he had had no chance to present a case for protection, for asylum.
The family is suffering unimaginable torment.
The UNHCR declares that the policy is in breach of the UK’s duty to process asylum claims here, under the 1951 convention. The European Court of Human Rights agrees.
The numbers of claimants are lower now than in previous decades. But many are making the risky Channel crossing. This is due to failures in relations between the UK and France.
No “safe routes” are available to most people who need protection. No effort is currently being made to create such routes (with the partial exception of Ukraine). None exist for the Kurdish son and brother and cousin of the family above.
The Rwanda policy cruelly targets the most vulnerable among us — those with the least established rights — not in order to solve a problem, but to divide voters and “show strength”. It does not show morality or provide justice.
Bishops and princes condemn the policy. UK courts have ruled that the government can choose how to treat asylum seekers, even to deny them the basic rights to be heard and to appeal a verdict. We believe that the courts have got it wrong, and will soon arrive at a better judgment, one which is in keeping with international law and with basic humanity.
The policy is a stain on the international image of the UK. It makes us feel ashamed to be British.
Arbitrary detention, inappropriate accommodation, no right to work, inadequate legal advice and representation, meagre support, homelessness — these and other miseries are already inflicted on asylum seekers in Swansea and across the UK. Local and national charity organisations campaign on all these problems.
The Rwanda policy represents something new and awful: not just treating asylum seekers poorly, but disposing of them like unwanted animals, kicking them out of sight, without the basic human dignity of being heard.
Rwanda is a dictatorship from which people flee for their lives. But if the policy was to deport asylum seekers to Switzerland, we would still oppose it on moral grounds.
Statement Endorsed by:
… [and others]
Join our rally in Castle Square on Saturday 3rd September at 12:30, to resist the hostile environment and fight for refugee rights. Please see the Facebook Event page for more details.
Please note this is a draft statement as of 26th August 2022.