Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile – Surviving violence, creating hope, rebuilding lives


Baobab Briefings

Statement about UK Gov plans to outsource assessments of asylum seekers to Rwanda

A statement about UK Government plans to outsource assessments of asylum seekers who arrive in the UK by “illegal” routes to Rwanda, and the Prime Minister’s speech of April 14th, 2022

While we remain puzzled that announcements about sending male asylum seekers to Rwanda, came out last week, before the final version of the 2022 Borders and Nationality Bill has been agreed, we notice huge contradictions in the statements made by the government members and supporters about their plans for asylum seekers.

Some statements have been made by politicians about the plans for outsourcing the asylum process being directly linked to the government’s wish to discourage traffickers. There seems to be no evidence of any resources or energy being focused towards stopping traffickers. In fact, the current government plan seems to be focused on punishing individuals seen to have arrived illegally and to send them far away. This plan focuses on issues of population control rather than care and support of vulnerable people in need. This plan punishes the asylum seekers not the traffickers.

Given the recent Human Rights Watch 2022 country report on the current human rights situation in Rwanda where:


Human Rights Watch 2022 country report

We of course have no accurate idea about the political reasons why Mr Johnson made his speech on April fourteenth. We might wonder if he and the Home Office were trying to take public attention away from the ‘party-gate’ scandal and the rise in the costs of living in the UK. He may have been simply allying himself with those in the UK who don’t want foreigners in the UK. Whatever his intentions and motives Boris Johnson and his speech writers highlighted their ignorance of and their disinterest in the true experiences and needs of asylum seekers who take “illegal” routes to safety and protection. In particular his plan makes no sense because Rwanda in truth could not offer safety and protection and a stable life to asylum seekers as is evidenced by the 2022 Human Rights Watch Report focused on Human Rights abuses in Rwanda.

The Baobab Centre would be most concerned that young asylum seekers arriving by boat to the UK after experiences of organized state violence and interpersonal violence and who are routinely overwhelmed and suffering from significant mental health symptoms and developmental difficulties rooted in trauma, separation and loss and the experience of many unplanned changes, could be sent to Rwanda.

  1. After their experiences of having to leave their home countries in order to avoid further persecution, forced recruitment, imprisonment or murder they are likely to have significant mental health symptoms and developmental difficulties. They need stability and protection and not to be sent, against their will to a country with a long history of internal conflicts over resources, beliefs, values and power which makes use of violence, political repression, torture and genocide in order to resolve such conflicts. 
  2. After experiences of a variety of child and adolescent specific human rights abuses young people who are in fact minors are likely to look physically much older than their chronological ages. Research shows significant aging in various aspects of their epigenetic profile even when they are in adolescence. The authorities in the UK do not have a good record of assessing age and the Home Office currently outsources age assessments to social workers who often pay little attention to well documented ‘good practice’ (See Al Ainsley Green et all in the BMJ 2012) i.e., that they make multi-disciplinary assessments that include and integrate the assessments of a variety of professionals including, teachers, paediatricians, foster carers, psychologists and psychotherapists as well as social workers. The government plans to send adult males to Rwanda but they do not have a good record of assessing the difference between a young man who is an adult and an adolescent aged seventeen or eighteen. (Numerous successful court cases challenging age assessments highlight this issue). 
  3. There is no mention of either child or vulnerable adult safeguarding and protection in the government plan. We wonder how will the UK government ensure the safety of minors from slavery and sexual exploitation? Already vulnerable young people are easy pickings for unscrupulous adults. The government risks placing young people in severe danger and the whole sordid business of wholesale deportation of people who are unable to find sanctuary is a chilling reminder of the UK’s refusal to accept Jewish people fleeing Nazi persecution. Boris Johnson’s April 14th speech does not report the true facts about Britain’s record of accepting asylum seekers and misses the crucial restrictions on immigration to the UK. 
  4. We wonder what will happen to those asylum seekers who want and need to come to the UK. There is as yet no process for the asylum seekers eventually to have refuge in the UK, and no system for processing these applications in the UK. The plan seems to be for deportation without careful assessment. Young asylum seekers need time to share their narrative and the proposed system does not allow for this necessary time and the difficulties of highly troubled and traumatised people to share their stories. 
  5. If the Home Office has limited resources to make assessments and feels overwhelmed with the tasks of assessment why can those asylum seekers who would like for various reasons to come to the UK not be processed in another country such as the way it was very quickly organised for Ukrainian refugees coming to the UK to be processed in France.

In the context of the plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda we might ask what are the motives of Boris Johnson and his team in developing this plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. We might ask many questions e.g., What are their business interests in Rwanda? Why they are more interested in control than in care and involvement and careful assessments of what asylum seekers need and would like?  And how the UK might meet these needs in a just way