Children could also be part of removals to Rwanda

By Amer Zaman

on March 8, 2023

Read Time: 7 Minutes

The UK Government’s strongly contested Rwanda asylum plan is continuing to attract headlines, for largely unflattering reasons.

One of the most recent developments that has been the subject of concern was a suggestion by a Home Office minister that families with children seeking asylum in the UK were being considered for deportation to the central African country.

What did the Government minister say about potential forced removals of children to Rwanda?

The minister in question was the Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, who in his appearance at the women and equalities committee, admitted there was a chance of children being deported to Rwanda under the scheme.

He suggested that if the UK Government ruled out such deportations, there could be a risk of the UK becoming a “magnet” for people traffickers.

Mr Jenrick said to the committee that no children who arrived in the UK without an adult accompanying them would be forcibly relocated to Rwanda.

However, when the Newark MP was asked whether children who came to the UK as part of a family group would be subject to such deportation, he said: “As we operationalise the Rwanda policy we will need to consider whether or not we would remove families.

“The balance we would need to consider is obviously the challenge of minors leaving the country to Rwanda against the risk that the UK then became a magnet for people traffickers focusing on families.”

When the minister was challenged as to whether this meant the Government was considering allowing the forced removal of children to Rwanda if they arrived in the UK as part of a family group, he said that the Home Office had yet to reach a “firm conclusion” on the issue.

What is the UK’s Rwanda asylum plan?  

On 14th April 2022, the UK Government announced what it described as a “migration and economic development partnership” between the UK and Rwanda.

The Home Office, under then-Home Secretary Priti Patel, said that the agreement would involve migrants who made “dangerous or illegal journeys” – such as by boat or hidden in lorries – having their asylum claim processed in Rwanda. The Government said that those whose claims were accepted would then receive support to “build a new and prosperous life” in Rwanda.

In other words, the deal meant that anyone entering the UK “illegally” could be relocated to the central African country. Under the plan, the UK’s legal responsibilities for such people would end once they arrived in Rwanda, and affected migrants would not be permitted to apply for asylum in the UK.

The plan has proved hugely controversial. As of the time of Mr Jenrick’s comments on the possibility of the UK Government deporting children to Rwanda, the policy was set to be challenged by the charity Asylum Aid and a number of individuals in the Court of Appeal. It was also reported in late January 2023 that the policy had already cost the British taxpayer £140 million so far, even though no asylum seekers had actually yet been sent to Rwanda.

Why is the Home Office considering child deportations to Rwanda?

In the evidence session at which Mr Jenrick was pressed on the Rwanda asylum policy, he said officials were concerned that if they ruled out the chances of any specific group – such as families – being forcibly removed from the UK, traffickers might be encouraged by this to focus on smuggling families instead of single males.

The immigration minister therefore said there wasn’t necessarily “a bar” to families being deported to Rwanda.   

How likely is it that children could be forcibly moved from the UK to Rwanda?

The theory of possible child deportations to Rwanda is one issue, of course; whether such removals are actually likely to happen is another. Sure enough, the committee was told that to date, only 3.5% of those who had received a Home Office letter of intent indicating that they could be deported to Rwanda were women, and no women had yet been given removal directions.

Also giving evidence to the committee was the Home Office’s director of asylum, protection and enforcement, Dan Hobbs, who said it was rare for the department to forcibly remove families to other countries. However, given that the very point of the agreement between the UK and Rwanda is ostensibly to deport asylum seekers in the UK that the Home Office targets, observers could be forgiven for feeling sceptical as to whether child and family removals would indeed be “rare” in the event of this aspect of the policy going ahead.

Can asylum seekers bring family to the UK?

As an applicant for asylum in the UK, you can include your partner and your children under 18 years of age as ‘dependants’ in your application if they are with you in the UK.

In the event that you are successful in claiming asylum in the UK, any dependants named on your application will usually be permitted to stay in the country for the same amount of time as you. However, in order to get refugee status, your dependants will need to make their own claims for asylum.

If someone has refugee status, this means they are protected by the Refugee Convention. This would entitle them to apply for what is known as ‘family reunion’, or for a refugee integration loan.  

If you are a refugee or have five years’ humanitarian protection or settlement on protection grounds in the UK, you have the option of submitting a family reunion application to the Home Office. The purpose of this application would be to request to be reunited with your family who are presently outside of the UK.

Your partner or child will not be able to join you in the UK via a family reunion application if:

  • You are still waiting for a decision on your asylum claim
  • They are under 18 years of age

It is important to note that the family reunion application is mainly designed for ‘immediate’ family members – specifically, spouses or unmarried children under 18 years of age. Any relatives abroad that you have who are not ‘immediate’ family members would be classed as ‘extended’ family members; examples would include parents, siblings, and children over 18. For these relatives, there are other applications that would potentially allow them to come to the UK.

Please note, too, that in order to stay in the UK as a refugee, you will need to satisfy the general eligibility requirements for claiming asylum. You will only be able to claim asylum in the UK if you are unable to live safely in any part of your own country because you fear persecution there.

What is the current status of the UK’s Rwanda asylum policy?

The short answer to this question is that the Government’s aspirations to resume deportation flights are presently in a state of limbo, amid ongoing legal proceedings challenging the lawfulness of the scheme.

Although the High Court ruled that the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was lawful, it has also allowed permission to appeal against parts of the decision made by Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift.

In the ruling in December, the two judges had dismissed an application from eight asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union to prevent the commencement of the Rwanda policy.

The judges also, however, found the Home Office’s decision-making processes in relation to the eight asylum seekers to be flawed, thereby quashing the department’s decision to deport them to the African country.   

Looking ahead, the Government has said it is hoping to press ahead with Rwanda flights as soon as possible following the conclusion of the current legal dispute.

And speaking to the committee in late January, Mr Jenrick said that the Government was intending to detain a higher number of migrants, stating: “If we want to remove more people from the country, we will need to have a larger detained estate.”

How can Cranbrook Legal assist with your claim for asylum in the UK?

Our experts in immigration law at Cranbrook Legal are continuing to keep close watch on the latest developments in relation to the UK Government’s Rwanda plan, and the implications that this could have for our clients.

As a central London law firm that specialises in UK immigration law, we have a high level of expertise in all aspects of the process of claiming asylum in the UK. No less importantly, we also have an excellent track record of helping people to successfully apply for asylum and lead a new life in the UK.

If you are fleeing persecution in your home country and seeking to stay in the UK as a refugee, we can well understand that you may be greatly concerned about the latest developments in relation to the Rwanda policy. When you become a client of ours, we can project manage your case to help maximise your chances of a successful asylum claim at the first attempt.

To learn more about the services that we provide to asylum seekers and other migrants to the UK, please feel to call our specialists in immigration law today on 0208 215 0053; you are also welcome to complete and submit our online contact form to arrange a free consultation with us.

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