On Thursday 14 April, the UK and Rwanda announced a new Migration and Economic Development Partnership to redress the imbalance between illegal and legal migration routes.
The Partnership will see those travelling to the UK through illegal, dangerous and unnecessary methods considered for relocation to Rwanda, where they will have their asylum claim processed. Those whose claims for protection are rejected will either be offered the chance to stay in Rwanda or return to their home country – they will not return to the UK once their claims have been decided by Rwanda.
All needs will be met by Rwanda who will create a safe environment for migrants to start a new life, with education, employment and accommodation.
Everyone considered for relocation will be screened and have access to legal advice. Decisions will be taken on a case-by-case basis, and nobody will be removed if it is unsafe or inappropriate for them.
The number of people who can be relocated under the agreement is unlimited.
People will have all their needs looked after while their asylum claims are being considered in Rwanda. This includes safe and clean accommodation, food, healthcare and amenities. They will have full access to translators and will be able to access legal support in order to appeal decisions in Rwanda’s courts.
Those relocated will be given a generous support package, including up to five years of training, accommodation and healthcare.
People are free to leave if they wish and they will not be detained. But those in genuine need of international protection will be provided with it in Rwanda.
This Partnership builds on our work so far within the New Plan for Immigration to help those in need to resettle in the UK through what are safe and legal ways to come here. We've welcomed over 97,000 BNOs from Hong Kong and 25,000 Syrians and have issued more than 40,000 visas under our Refugee Family Reunion Scheme since 2015. More recently, we have opened the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) which will give up to 20,000 people at risk a new life in the UK and have granted over 50,000 visas for Ukrainians through our Ukrainian Resettlement Schemes.
This strategic alliance forms part of a suite of measures under the New Plan for Immigration – the most comprehensive reform in decades, to fix the broken asylum system.
What will the strategic Partnership deliver?
This innovative, ambitious, and long-term agreement sets a new international standard to:
- support those fleeing persecution, giving them the best possible chance to rebuild their lives;
- disrupt the business model of organised crime gangs, making them unable to fulfil their contract to smuggle people across borders and thereby preventing loss of life;
- enhance economic prosperity in the region by investing in upskilling, development and projects which will benefit both migrants and their hosts.
Why are we doing this?
- Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers. If you illegally or irregularly enter the UK via a safe country in which you could have claimed asylum, you are not seeking refuge from imminent peril as is the intended purpose of the asylum system but are picking the UK as a preferred destination over others.
- The system is collapsing under the pressures of what are in effect parallel illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminals smuggling people into the UK.
- The existence of these parallel routes is deeply unfair as it advantages those with the means to pay people smugglers over vulnerable people who cannot. And because the capacity of our asylum system is not unlimited, the presence of economic migrants which these illegal routes introduce into the asylum system inhibits our ability to properly support others in genuine need of protection.
- The asylum system is costing the taxpayer £1.5 billion a year, the highest amount in over two decades – it is clear significant reforms need to be made.
- As a result, this is diverting resources away from those that are genuinely in need – we must act and work with our friends overseas to tackle this global issue together.
About the Partnership with Rwanda
- The UK-Rwanda Migration Partnership builds on wider collaboration with Rwanda on many shared issues, including efforts to combat climate change and delivering UK Aid.
- It is based upon the country’s strong experience in supporting and integrating refugees. It is also internationally recognised for its safety, strong governance, low corruption, gender equality and as one of the fastest growing economies across Africa.
- Rwanda is a State Party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the seven core UN Human Rights Conventions. As of August 2021, the total population of refugees and asylum seekers in Rwanda was almost 130,000, consisting of 61% from the Democratic Republic of Congo and over 38% from Burundi. It is recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants, including over 500 people evacuated from Libya under the EU’s Emergency Transit Mechanism working in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, and 30,000 Burundian refugees.
- The number of people who can be relocated under the agreement is unlimited and will be enhanced by changes to domestic laws aimed to streamline the court process and prevent repeated unmeritorious legal claims often strung out over many years.
- People will have support and care, meeting their needs as their asylum claims are processed and considered in Rwanda. This includes safe and clean accommodation, food, healthcare, amenities, recreation. They will have full access to translators and will be able to access legal support to appeal decisions in Rwanda’s courts. They will not be detained.
- If successful in being granted refugee status, people will be given full rights in Rwanda and will be helped to fully integrate with a 5-year package of training and support.
- If unsuccessful, they could still be granted an immigration status or be removed to their country of origin or other country where they have a right to reside.
- The first people to be relocated will receive formal notifications in the coming weeks and the first flights are expected to take place in the coming months.
- Anyone arriving illegally in the UK may be eligible.
- This agreement fully complies with all national and international law, including the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights.
- By making dangerous and illegal routes unviable, the government will have more capacity to provide support to the most vulnerable refugees around the world.
What does this mean for people arriving to the UK illegally?
- Every person who comes to the UK illegally, or by dangerous or unnecessary methods from safe countries – including those arriving by small boats, hidden in the back of lorries and found in the UK without leave – will be considered for relocation to Rwanda.
- Any person who has arrived in the UK in this way since 1 January 2022 will be considered for relocation to Rwanda.
- People that have travelled through a safe country to reach the UK or have a connection to a safe country would be deemed inadmissible to the UK’s asylum system and may face removal to a safe third country.
- Each case would be assessed individually. The country of removal may be a safe third country in which the person was present before claiming asylum in the UK, one with which they have some other connection, or any other safe third country that will accept them.
- We would never return an individual to a country where they would face a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment.
How the process works
Our legal and international obligations
- Everything we are doing is compliant with our legal and international obligations.
- All claims for asylum are considered in accordance with our international human rights obligations.
- People will be relocated overseas only where they will not be at risk of persecution or where it is not a breach of the UK’s obligations under Article 3 of the ECHR.
- As part of our Partnership, the UK will also resettle a portion of the most vulnerable refugees in Rwanda. Rwanda is leading in supporting the UNHCR and neighbouring regions with those in need of resettlement and, as their partner, the UK will support this effort.
Have other countries implemented this before?
- The UK-Rwanda Migration Partnership is a completely new and innovative approach with set amounts of funding per person.
- The Australians have agreements with Papua New Guinea and Nauru to transfer those arriving illegally for processing. This was successful in reducing illegal maritime arrivals.
- Under our model the relocated individuals are not detained in Rwanda and if they are found to be in need of protection will be supported, protected and integrated in Rwanda.
- The UK is providing substantial investment to boost the development of Rwanda, including jobs, skills and opportunities to benefit both migrants and host communities. This includes an initial investment of £120 million as part of a new Economic Transformation and Integration Fund.
- The UK is also funding the processing costs for each person relocated, such as caseworkers, legal advice, translators, accommodation, food, healthcare, and for those granted protection, a comprehensive integration package to help them put down roots and start a new life. Every person’s needs are different, but we anticipate the amount would be comparable to processing costs incurred the UK. Funding is only provided while a person remains in Rwanda.