New asylum seekers to be given 7 day Rwanda ultimatum in documents revealed to ITV News

New asylum seekers will be given seven days to provide reasons as to why they shouldn't be sent to Rwanda according to documents seen by ITV News. Credit: ITV News/PA
  • Report by Anushka Asthana and Lili Donlon Mansbridge

Asylum seekers who face being sent to Rwanda are being given just seven days to provide reasons in writing as to why they shouldn't be deported, documentation obtained by ITV News suggests.

People are being handed a "notice of intent" warning that their decision to travel through a safe country - usually France - before arriving in the UK could make their claim inadmissible.

The latest documents make it explicit that people will be penalised for taking risks in their travels to Britain by adding: "If the journey you have made to the UK may be described as having been dangerous, you may be eligible for relocation."

The letters show that people detained have seven days to submit information, while those outside of detention have 14.

After that their cases can be concluded as inadmissible. However, it could be sometime before flights actually begin heading to Rwanda because of legal challenges. 

The letters, seen by ITV News, show that people detained have seven days to submit information. Credit: ITV News

Ministers - led by Home Secretary Priti Patel - think that tough treatment for those arriving by boat from France will deter others, but charities say there is no evidence that such a plan would be effective.

Asylum seekers are then handed information pamphlets, one of which is entitled: "I'm being relocated to Rwanda. What does this mean for me?"

This document contains a map, and starts by asking where is Rwanda? It answers: "Rwanda is in central Africa. If you were to look at a world map, Rwanda is located just south of the equator."

It also seeks to sell Rwanda to individuals by describing it as "the land of a thousand hills" with "striking landscape" and "a wide array of wildlife and biodiversity".

A section of the documents received by ITV News that will be sent out to asylum seekers. Credit: ITV News

The documents were obtained by Lili Donlon Mansbridge - a producer on ITV's Peston.

People claiming asylum are told, in another document, to declare if they are disabled, pregnant, have a serious illness, or have been subject to torture, rape or other forms of sexual violence.

However, that doesn't appear to stop any deportations as the section adds: "If you tell us your medical details and it is decided that you will be sent to Rwanda, we will ask your permission to share your medical information with Rwanda." Lawyers who have seen individuals being served with these papers said that some hadn't spoken to a legal representative until they came to the duty advice clinic in detention, where they are allocated a 30-minute slot for advice.

The Home Office also hasn't provided a translation of the documents from English.

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The government has argued that the scheme to relocate people to Rwanda is a necessary deterrent to prevent people from boarding boats and making terrifying, risky journeys across the Channel. It comes alongside legislation that criminalises people who arrive in Britain via this route.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said: "It's sending out a clear signal that those that come to our country illegally will have no right to remain in our country, and we will use every tool and every piece of legislation that we have at our disposal to make sure that we can remove them."

But the scheme has been hugely controversial even within the Home Office, where sources told ITV news there was fury among some officials.

We also revealed that the permanent secretary - Matthew Rycroft- had asked for a "ministerial direction" in signing the policy off - meaning he refused to do so directly because he was not persuaded it was value for money.

He said there was insufficient evidence to prove it would act as a deterrent.

ITV News has seen the documents. Credit: ITV News

Many of those being given these latest documents seem to come from parts of the world which have been badly affected by war - like Sudan.

One Sudanese man told the Guardian it had taken them three years and a journey of more than 5,000 miles to reach the UK after fleeing a massacre in his village.

After crossing the Channel by kayak, he was told he could face deportation to Rwanda - and said the idea of being returned to the African continent was giving him flashbacks.

"I thought the UK was a good country with a lot of humanity," he said.

Bethany Gardiner-Smith, chief executive of the charity Safe Passage, said: "The idea that vulnerable people who have no prior connection with Rwanda will be given this flimsy document and told they have seven days to provide evidence as to why they shouldn't be sent there is deeply shocking.

"There is a real likelihood that survivors of torture and trafficking and other refugees may be exported under this scheme and placed in danger when we should be giving them safe haven and a fair hearing."

Although the scheme is not meant to apply to unaccompanied children- she said she feared some would be sent if they couldn't prove their age quickly enough.

"The British public have shown their desire to welcome refugees in response to Ukraine, and Government Ministers should listen and learn from this, rather than push ahead with this cruel and shameful plan."

The government has argued that a strict response to those crossing the Channel by boat is needed to deter people from attempting to make such risky journeys.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our new, world-leading Migration Partnership with Rwanda will see those who make dangerous, illegal or unnecessary journeys to the UK relocated to Rwanda and, if recognised as refugees, they will be supported to build a new life there. 

“We are fully committed to working with Rwanda to get the arrangement operational as soon as possible.”