LGBTQIA+ Refugees Are Being Deported to a Country That Will Not Protect Them

Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
Sarah Kennelly

20th of June 2022

To cross the channels in search of hope is a perilous journey that many do not survive. Those who succeed beat the odds working against them. From human traffickers to raging storms, the hurdles are endless. However, the barriers to their safety do not end when they reach our shores, in fact, they are fortified by governments who place policies above people.


This is exactly what the UK government is doing with a new policy that will deport refugees to Rwanda. Although Rwanda is making great strides in developing a more equal society, it is still failing to protect many of its marginalised groups.  Although Rwanda does not criminalize same-sex relations, there are no policies that outlaw discrimination against these identities despite the safety of the LGBTQIA+ community being particularly at risk.


The UK government is ignoring the concerns raised by many human rights organisations such as Rainbow Migration and ECRE. These institutions work tirelessly to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ refugees and are experts in how immigration policies affect their clients. They have stressed that the country is an unsafe environment for these migrants who could face discrimination in social and institutional settings. In June of last year, it was even discovered that Rwandan authorities captured and detained over a dozen gay and transgender people, in a bid to “clean up” their streets.



British officials have openly admitted that they understand the nature of these threats and have expressed their own “concern” for LGBTQIA+ identities in Rwanda. However, they reveal their inhumanity by deciding to move ahead with the policy anyway. It has been justified by claiming it is cost-efficient but this remains doubtful. The top civil servant, Matthew Rycroft, shared this scepticism in a letter to the Home Secretary, stating that there is little evidence to suggest that this agreement would be an effective deterrent enough to save taxpayers money. In another statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “our compassion may be infinite but our capacity to help people is not”. It remains unclear how this new policy will benefit the British taxpayer which they are so dutifully claiming to protect. 


This decision will also have repercussions for Ukrainian refugees who reach the UK through Ireland. Ireland’s decision to lift all immigration requirements for Ukranians fleeing war has been denounced by politicians in Northern Ireland, who support crackdowns on migrants using illegal routes to enter the country. In response to the policy in the Republic of Ireland, British officials have warned that those who make this illegal crossing will be at risk of deportation to Rwanda

At the time of writing, the most recent development was on Tuesday 14th June when the Strasbourg court blocked the first flight of refugees to Rwanda, citing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The grounding of the plane came as a result of the countless activists and lawyers campaigning to end this discriminatory policy. The British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has expressed his disapproval of the decision but has confirmed the removal of refugees to Rwanda will take place despite international pressure. Further, Johnson has raised the idea of the UK withdrawing from the ECHR, publicly querying “Will it be necessary to change some laws to help us as we go along?”. Although the 7 asylum seekers aboard the plane were granted extra time, their future remains uncertain.


Featured Image by Vibeke Sonntag on Flicker

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin


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