Calais Appeal - Statement On The UK Rwanda Scheme
We are disgusted by the UK’s cruel and inhumane plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda - a country that has been condemned for arresting and torturing those who speak out against the authorities by the UNHCR, countless human rights organisations and the UK government itself.
People fleeing the horrors of war, torture and persecution deserve our empathy and solidarity, not the trauma of violent deportations to an unsafe third country.
The British Prime Minister said that this scheme would affect ‘tens of thousands’ of asylum seekers per year. Instead, the first scheduled flight - which cost around £0.5 million - was stopped with 7 people on board after successful legal challenges in the UK and an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
This is having a very real, disastrous impact on displaced people seeking safety. We are seeing first hand a stark worsening of people’s living conditions and mental health. There is huge uncertainty, frustration and despair amongst those seeking to reunite with family or seek protection in the UK that they may be detained and deported once they reach British shores.
Currently, there are an estimated 2000 displaced people in 12 unofficial living sites across Calais and Dunkirk. Conditions are extremely unsafe, lacking access to water or sanitation services. Many people also sleep rough in Calais city centre under bridges and in parks.
We estimate that evictions are carried out by the French police every 36 / 48 hours, during which people’s limited personal belongings - tents, blankets, bags, identity papers, mobile phones, medicines & clothes - are often destroyed on the spot or thrown into skips.
The success of the visa scheme for Ukrainian refugees shows that the UK & France are able to collaborate on providing safe passages to people seeking safety. We exist because they are failing to fulfil this responsibility to people of other nationalities facing equally threatening persecution. Around 80 to 90% of all asylum applications in the UK succeed either at the initial stage or on appeal - these are people who deserve protection.
Ending the costly, inefficient and degrading Rwanda scheme would allow the UK government to focus on processing the claims of people forced to make treacherous journeys from Northern France because of the lack of safe options available to them.
Since the destruction of the informal ‘Jungle’ camp in 2016, Calais has only periodically been in the news. We are seeing a rapid degradation of people’s wellbeing as they see their opportunities for safety in the UK dwindling, but whilst they are forced to make these journeys, we will stand by their side.