Wednesday
22 May | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Asylum seekers hide, dodge or flee, as UK faces fallout

British officials detain asylum seekers for somehow a ‘controversial’ Rwanda scheme, with at least one now on hunger strike and another threatening suicide

Britain’s Home Office is dealing with growing fallout from the high-profile roundups of asylum seekers as the administration is sending these ‘outsiders’ to Rwanda – a landlocked African country – as some have gone into hiding while others have fled across the border areas, local and foreign media quoted government officials and representatives of charity organizations as saying.

Republic of Rwanda – world’s fifth most densely populated country – is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Congo. It is pertinent to mention here that this African nation ranks among the lowest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties and quality of life.

A week ago, the British officials started to detain asylum seekers for somehow a ‘controversial’ Rwanda scheme, with at least one now on hunger strike and another threatening suicide. The government has disseminated a message about detaining people for Rwanda, it is not clear whether the administration had anticipated that some asylum seekers would go into hiding or dodge and others would go to nearby settlements.

“We observe that people leaving their accommodation in order to avoid arrests. They are raising alarm about increasing risks of destitution and exploitation,” said Lou Calvey, director of the Asylum Matters – a charity organization. The asylum seekers who have participated reporting sessions at centers around the country said that they had never seen things so quiet.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris says they don’t want to live in a country where makeshift shantytowns are allowed to just develop

“I walked right in and didn’t have to queue at all. In all years, I’ve been reporting I’ve never seen it so deserted,” an asylum seeker said as he has been in Britain for more than a decade but is fearful the British administration could arrest him even though he is not in scope for the first cohort of returns. Another asylum seeker, who has received a notice, said that his friends suggested him to go into hiding.

Another refugee urged her friends at risk of being sent to Rwanda to hide. “I was an asylum seeker in 2020 when the Home Office was trying to deport as many asylum seekers as possible to European countries they had passed through before Britain’s exit from European Union started. Some asylum seekers went into hiding then and I can see that it is happening again,” she said.

In Ireland, just days after the authorities removed a ‘tent city’ of asylum seekers in Dublin outside the International Protection Accommodation Services Center, the tents have returned close to where they were before. Both sides of the city’s Grand Canal are lined by about 70 tents provided by charities for asylum seekers.

“We do not want to live in a country where makeshift shantytowns are allowed to just develop,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris quoted as saying. In Dublin, the authorities are expected to provide more accommodation to deal with the unprecedented numbers seeking protection, some arriving from the UK. Recently, Irish Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that 80% of those arrivals had crossed the border from Northern Ireland.

‘I’m not coming from Rwanda. How can you send me to Rwanda? I don’t want to go to Rwanda’

A few days ago, an Ethiopian asylum seeker who is in scope for removal to Rwanda because of his date of arrival in the United Kingdom told media that he was worried about being detained when he went inside the center to report. An Iranian national who came here 14 years ago said he did not understand how refugees could be sent to a country they did not come from. “I’m not coming from Rwanda. How can you send me to Rwanda,” he questioned.

A Home Office spokesperson said that the unacceptable number of people demonstrates exactly why they must get flights to Rwanda off the ground as soon as possible. “Many of those in scope to be relocated are also staying in our accommodation. We have robust procedures in place to prevent absconding and we remain in contact with those in scope for relocation to Rwanda through a number of means, including digital reporting,” it said.

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