Lawyers have raised the alarm over the possibility of trafficking victims being sent to Rwanda by the U.K. government to have their asylum claims processed, thanks to an “inherently flawed” screening process.
Trafficking victims caught up in inhumane plan
The government has come under intense criticism for its plan to send people attempting to cross through irregular migration routes into the U.K. to seek asylum more than 4,000 miles away to Rwanda.
The deal was first announced in April but the first flight due to transport people to Rwanda was grounded in June following a strong backlash from civil society and an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights. Trafficking victims were amongst those selected by the government to be on the flight.
New flights are not due to be scheduled until after the High Court decides the outcomes of a judicial review of the legality of this inhumane plan. Notably, people notified that they will be removed from the U.K. won’t have enough time to seek legal advice on their case.
No access to legal advice
Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society which has submitted a report on the Rwanda scheme to the U.K. parliament’s upper house, explained in the Independent why this will be harmful for trafficking victims:
The short timeframe for screening asylum-seekers could mean the Home Office fails to identify people who it would be unsafe to send to Rwanda, such as torture or trafficking victims, people with disabilities or other protected characteristics.
We are concerned that failure to properly identify specific issues could be incompatible with our domestic law and international obligations … we believe this part of the memorandum of understanding is inherently flawed and unfair and gives rise to a real risk that individuals may be removed to Rwanda without having had adequate access to legal advice or effective representation.
The government is sending a clear message that inhumane immigration policies will always be prioritized over preventing trafficking, no matter the human cost.
The Freedom United community is urgently calling on the U.K., and all governments, to stop misusing anti-trafficking rhetoric in a bid to justify harmful immigration policies which actually exacerbate people’s vulnerability to trafficking.
We’re calling on the U.K. government, and governments around the world, to introduce asylum and migration policies which protect human rights. Join us today.