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Rwanda refugee program dubbed 'another Windrush' ahead of London protest

Campaigners are warning the plans are 'another Windrush scandal'.

Rwanda flight

The first flight to Rwanda is due to leave on June 14. Image@ Benedikt Lang/Flickr

Campaigners are warning the UK’s plans to deport refugees to Rwanda is “another Windrush scandal in the making”, ahead of a protest planned for Wednesday in London.

Protesters will gather outside the Rwanda High Commission on Wednesday evening and demand the Rwandan government drop the deal, with the first flight planned next week.

The first group of asylum seekers to be deported to Rwanda will depart on June 14 but activists are hoping to resist – spurred on by a flight to Jamaica which left last month with just seven of 112 people on board.

Karen Doyle, an organiser of the protest and an activist with Movement for Justice, said it represented the “defining fight of our generation”.

“On one side of this deal we have a far right government absolutely determined to destroy human rights and end the right of asylum in the UK. On the other side of the deal is Rwanda, a dictatorship who has been busily engaged in trying to wash its image clean for years,” Doyle told The Big Issue.

“If the government succeeds in sending refugees to Rwanda it is the end of the very notion of seeking refuge and safety in the UK.”

Syrian and Afghan refugees are believed to be among those due to be on the first flight.

The Home Office says the plan will help crack down on people smugglers and deter small boat crossings.

“We feel that this issue is another ‘Windrush Scandal’ in the making,” said Omar Leon, vice-chair of Caribbean Labour Solidarity.

“The UK Home Office in its current state, has been tearing through communities, terrorising local residents with immigration raids, and in the case of those referred to as the ‘Jamaica 50’, have been detaining scores of Jamaican nationals – who’ve built lives in the UK – at immigration detention centres.

“We stand in full solidarity with all groups who are affected by the Rwanda deal, and all who are organising around this protest, as the issue of deportation has deeply impacted the Caribbean community.“

Asylum seekers have been offered the option between being sent back to conflict zones in their home countries, or to Rwanda, the Guardian reports.

Announcing the first flight to Rwanda, Home Secretary Priti Patel hailed the plans, saying: “Our world-leading partnership with Rwanda is a key part of our strategy to overhaul the broken asylum system and break the evil people-smugglers’ business model.”

Zita Holbourne, national chair and co-founder of campaign group BARAC UK, a group of black activists campaigning against racism and cuts to public services, said the policy is inhumane and “completely horrific.”

She said: “Some refugees will have fled persecution, climate change and/or conflict on the African continent only to be sent back to the continent. It is a deeply racist and unjust policy disproportionately and impacting black and brown refugees.”

A Home Office spokesperson told The Big Issue:

“Rwanda is a safe and stable country, which has been recognised globally for their record in welcoming and integrating migrants and asylum seekers. It will be able to offer a home, stability, and a future for those in need.

“Last year, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the EU worked with Rwanda to resettle refugees from Libya there – the UNHCR praised the Rwandan Government for offering a welcoming and safe environment to vulnerable people around the world.

“We are fully committed to working with Rwanda to offer safety to those seeking asylum and ultimately save lives through this innovative, ambitious partnership.”

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