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Refugee and Migrant Children's Consortium briefing on government plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda

Kamena Dorling

The Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium (RMCC), a coalition of over 60 organisations, is appalled by, and entirely opposed, to the government’s plans to permanently remove people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda to have their claims processed, as well as live in Rwanda if their asylum claim is successful. We believe these to be inhumane and unlawful for a range of reasons but this short briefing focusses on the possible impact on children.

We understand that the government would be looking to send those with inadmissible claims to Rwanda and the Home Office’s current Policy on Inadmissibility: safe third country cases makes clear that unaccompanied asylum seeking children are “presently treated as not suitable for third country inadmissibility action”. This includes “individuals whose age is doubted but who are being treated as children under the Assessing age instruction”. However, there are no safeguards in place for children who claim to be children but are still treated as adults by the Home Office, which is a rising area of concern.

RMCC members regularly see children as young as 14 treated as adults by the Home Office and placed in immigration detention and alone in adult accommodation at significant risk. In one case, a young Eritrean, Alex, was wrongly assessed as an adult and after his death by suicide the inquest noted that this has contributed to the “destructive spiral” that lead to his death. In July to September last year the Refugee Council assisted over 150 young people into local authority care who had previously been sent to adult accommodation following a decision by an Immigration Officer. Data from just 55 local authorities shows that in 2021 over 450 young people were referred to children’s service having been sent to adult accommodation/detention. Three quarters were found to be children. 

Figures from 64 local authorities show that in January to March 2022, 211 young people were referred to children’s services after having been sent to adult accommodation/ detention. Two thirds were found to actually be children - meaning that in just three months nearly 150 children already had been placed in adult accommodation or detention and would have been at risk of removal to Rwanda. The Home Office does not publish separate figures on how many individuals claiming to be children are sent straight to detention or adult accommodation, nor does it monitor what happens to them.

In response to questions from the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Immigration Minister confirmed that any age dispute “must be concluded, of course, before someone is relocated to Rwanda” but we are already seeing cases of children who have been detained as adults being issued with ‘notices of intent’ to remove them.

We are extremely concerned that due to the government’s flawed approach to age disputes there is a significant risk that children will be removed to Rwanda. This includes the complete lack of information from government about those deemed to be adults by immigration officers who are not currently included in any government statistics on age assessments.

For more information, click on the arrow below to read the full RMCC briefing.