Pregnant asylum seeker facing Rwanda deportation fears for unborn son
ITV News' Neil Connery spoke with a 37-week pregnant asylum seeker who is fearing the possibility of being deported to Rwanda
A pregnant asylum seeker, who has been mistakenly told by the government that she could face deportation to Rwanda from the UK, has told ITV News she is "afraid" for her unborn son's future, if the controversial government scheme defeats the flurry of legal challenges brought against it.
Delina - who requested her full identity be kept anonymous - arrived in Britain last June from Eritrea, in east Africa, having crossed the English Channel via boat.
She said she fled Eritrea as a young child after her father was killed by the country's government.
Last week the Home Office mistakenly sent her a letter which said that despite being 37-weeks pregnant, she could face deportation to Rwanda.
"I cannot sleep. I don't sleep all night at all. I was thinking, thinking like I'm afraid," she said.
Asked if she was shocked that the government was looking to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda she replied: "I'm surprised also."
Delina added that she fears for the safety of her son "because if I go to Rwanda, I don't know what's going to happen".
But the letter had been sent in error, a Home Office spokesperson later said.
“We urgently reviewed this case and found the letter was sent in error. It has now been corrected and we have issued an apology," the 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.”
Meanwhile, the chief executive of the charity Asylum Aid, Kerry Smith, said: "For the people who've been issued with these notices a reasonable number of them have been survivors of trafficking.
"Others have experienced trauma and for everyone it's highly distressing."
It comes as the High Court heard that asylum seekers facing removal to Rwanda could have their claims processed in as little as three weeks from arrival.
Asylum Aid has brought a legal challenge against the Home Office, with judges told that the procedure is “seriously unfair”.
In April, then-home secretary Priti Patel signed what she described as a “world-first agreement” to deport some asylum seekers to the east African nation, in a bid to deter migrants from crossing the Channel.
However, the first deportation flight - due to take off on June 14 - was grounded amid a series of legal challenges against individual removals and the policy as a whole.
Charlotte Kilroy KC, for Asylum Aid, told the High Court in London, on Thursday, that the process is “highly abbreviated” and lacks safeguards.
Ms Kilroy said in written submissions: “It is intended, absent delays introduced by legal challenges, to be capable of completion ‘end to end’, i.e. from start to removal, within two-three weeks."
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The court heard that after a notice of intent is issued, asylum seekers are given seven days’ notice of their planned removal to Rwanda, which is increased to 14 days if the person is not in detention.
The Home Office will then make a decision, which may be accompanied by the formal removal direction that requires five working days’ notice before the proposed removal date, judges later heard.
Extensions are possible, the barrister argued, but “individuals are not informed that they may seek extensions, there is no policy or guidance to case workers on granting them, and they are granted for short periods on a restrictive basis, if at all”.
The Home Office has argued that seven days will be “sufficient” in many cases and that individuals and their solicitors can request extensions.
“It is not an ‘accelerated’ process or a ‘mirror’ of any other system,” Edward Brown KC, for the department, said in written arguments.
Last month, several asylum seekers - along with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and groups Care4Calais and Detention Action - told judges at the High Court that Rwanda is an “authoritarian state” which “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.
However, Home Office lawyers argued that the Rwandan authorities have given “detailed assurances” over the processing of asylum claims and the ongoing treatment of individuals.
The hearing before Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift is due to finish on Friday, with judgment in both cases expected at a later date.