Nearly half of asylum seekers facing removal to Rwanda are married and a fifth have children, according to a new survey.
The findings were released by the campaign coalition Together With Refugees, a coalition of more than 500 national and local organisations representing refugees, on Wednesday. The charity Care4Calais carried out the analysis.
It also found that most asylum seekers threatened with deportation to Rwanda are from countries where more than 80% of people have had their refugee status recognised by the UK. Three of the refugees in the sample identify as LGBTQ+, despite Rwanda being a country from which people fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation can seek asylum in the UK.
The new research contradicts claims made by former home secretary Priti Patel, who launched the scheme to deter people crossing the Channel in small boats, saying they were “not genuine asylum seekers” and were “elbowing out the women and children, who are at risk and fleeing persecution”.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of people in a sample of 213 people who were threatened with being sent to Rwanda by the Home Office have fled from countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Syria. At least 82% of people from these countries have successful applications in the UK.
All of the people surveyed received notices of intent from the Home Office between August 2022 and 17 January 2023. Anyone receiving such a notice is at risk of being sent to Rwanda.
When she was home secretary, Patel said: “In the last 12 months alone, 70% of the individuals who have come to our country illegally via small boats are single men, who are effectively economic migrants. They are not genuine asylum seekers … These are the ones who are elbowing out the women and children, who are at risk and fleeing persecution.”
However, 13 of those in the new analysis are women. Nearly half of the total sample – 42% – are married or engaged and 20% have children. Two-thirds have reported being victims of modern slavery or torture.
When the scheme was first piloted, the Home Office said it would be aimed at single men.
One pregnant Eritrean victim of trafficking had her notice of intent cancelled after the Guardian made inquiries to the Home Office about her case.
A recent YouGov poll found that only 10% of those questioned thought that sending people to Rwanda was the best way to address the issue of small boat arrivals.
Despite finding the scheme lawful in December last year, the high court has agreed that parts of this decision can be appealed.
Campaigners will protest against the scheme on a red open-top London bus outside the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. The bus is covered in banners calling on the government to “scrap the cruel Rwanda plan”.
Beth Gardiner-Smith, spokesperson for Together With Refugees and chief executive of Safe Passage, said: “This scheme is not just morally wrong; it’s expensive and unworkable. If our government were serious about tackling smuggling and saving lives at sea, they would scrap this plan and urgently expand safe routes for refugees.”
Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said: “This brutal policy will not end small boat crossings, it won’t stop people smugglers and it won’t keep refugees safe. There is a kinder and more effective option: give safe passage to refugees in Calais.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Everyone in scope for relocation to Rwanda will be individually assessed, and no one will be relocated if it is unsafe or inappropriate for them.
“If an individual’s circumstances change after receipt of a notice of intent, this should be communicated to us at the earliest opportunity and their case will be reviewed.”