• Home Office to detain asylum seekers across UK in shock Rwanda operation

    Operation comes weeks earlier than expected and is thought to have been timed to coincide with local elections.

    The Home Office will launch a major operation to detain asylum seekers across the UK on Monday, weeks earlier than expected, in preparation for their deportation to Rwanda, the Guardian can reveal.

    Officials plan to hold asylum seekers who turn up for routine meetings at immigration service offices or bail appointments and will also pick people up nationwide in a surprise two-week exercise.

    Lawyers and campaigners said the detentions risked provoking protracted legal battles, community protests and clashes with police – with officers in Scotland put on high alert.

    Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The government is determined to recklessly pursue its inhumane Rwanda plan despite the cost, chaos and human misery it will unleash. We know it is likely to cause a catastrophic system meltdown.”

    Detainees will be immediately transferred to detention centres, which have already been prepared for the operation, and held until they are put on planes to Rwanda. Some will be put on the first flight due to take off this summer.

    The Home Office said ratification of the prime minister’s Safety of Rwanda Act meant “the government is entering the final phase of operationalising this landmark policy to tackle illegal migration and stop the boats”.

    It added: “At some stage inevitably this will include detaining people in preparation for the first flight, which is set to take off to Rwanda in 10 to 12 weeks. It would be inappropriate to comment further on operational activity.”

    The start of the Home Office’s detention operation, which had not been anticipated for weeks, coincides with Thursday’s local council elections in England where the Tories face losing up to half the seats they currently hold.

    Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that cracking down on illegal migration was central to the Tory campaign.

    Police in Scotland have been put on alert because of the high risk of street protests and attempts by pro-refugee campaigners to stop detentions. Officers will not take part in the detentions but will take charge of crowd control and public order. A Police Scotland spokesperson referred the Guardian to the Home Office.

    Local communities in Scotland have twice prevented deportations by staging mass protests, on Kenmure Street in Glasgow in May 2021, and in Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, in June 2022. On both occasions, hundreds of people surrounded immigration enforcement vehicles to prevent asylum seekers being removed.

    During an interview in which he mentioned Rwanda and illegal migration 13 times, the prime minister said on Sunday that he was focused on “stopping the boats”, as well as his pledges on the economy. He told Sky News’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips of his “determination to get that Rwanda scheme going”.

    However, the latest official data, released on Sunday, showed the number of people arriving by small boats in the first four months of 2024 was the highest ever for that period, at 7,167 people, compared with 5,745 for the same period last year. The previous record for those four months was 6,691.

    Speaking on Monday before the Lords and Commons sat through the night to pass the safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill, Sunak said: “To detain people while we prepare to remove them, we’ve increased detention spaces to 2,200.

    “To quickly process claims, we’ve got 200 trained, dedicated caseworkers ready and waiting. To deal with any legal cases quickly and decisively, the judiciary have made available 25 courtrooms and identified 150 judges who could provide over 5,000 sitting days.”

    Aamer Anwar, a Glasgow-based human rights lawyer who was directly involved in the Kenmure Street protests, said Police Scotland and the Scottish government had to be certain they believed this was lawful.

    He revealed he had been inundated with calls from activists after the Guardian first reported the Home Office move on Sunday morning. “People are extremely angry and upset, and ready to mobilise,” Anwar said, adding it would be “extremely dangerous” for Police Scotland to put itself in the middle of a deportation protest if people felt they were acting to protect deportation operations.

    “I suspect in the coming days we will see an explosion of the spirit of Kenmure Street across the UK, opposing a policy that will lead to misery, self-harm and death, driving so many more into the arms of people smugglers,” Anwar said. “The fundamental question for the Scottish government as well as Police Scotland is whether they are willing to engage in this barbaric abuse of power against a desperate people.”

    Solomon said the detention and removal operations were likely to persuade other asylum seekers already in the UK to disappear, for fear of being deported.



    ajouté à la métaliste sur la mise en place de l’#externalisation des #procédures_d'asile au #Rwanda par l’#Angleterre (2022) :

    elle-même ajouté à la métaliste sur les tentatives de différentes pays européens d’#externalisation non seulement des contrôles frontaliers (https://seenthis.net/messages/731749), mais aussi de la #procédure_d'asile dans des #pays_tiers :

    • One in five asylum seekers on Rwanda deportation list is from Afghanistan, charity says

      Care4Calais says the government’s rounding up of asylum seekers for deportation to Rwanda was ‘deeply worrying’

      One in five asylum seekers due to be deported to Rwanda is from Afghanistan, according to a charity supporting the refugees.

      Care4Calais says that from the first group it has contacted, 18 per cent were Afghans and another one in five – 21 per cent – were Syrians.

      It’s not known whether the Afghans found by the charity included workers who supported the British armed forces overseas, such as interpreters and pilots.

      On Wednesday ministers released pictures of the first asylum seekers being rounded up for deportation to Rwanda after a controversial bill legalising such flights finally obtained royal assent last week.

      The House of Lords fought to have Afghans who supported British forces exempted from the legislation, but ultimately lost when it was forced to give way to the government in parliamentary “ping-pong”.

      The Independent has campaigned for these war heroes to be granted leave to remain in the UK.

      Care4Calais also said 15 per cent of the first cohort were Sudanese, while Eritreans and Iranians each accounted for 14 per cent.

      The remaining 18 per cent included Kuwaitis, Iraqis and Sri Lankans.

      Home Office immigration officers began detaining potential deportees on Monday at their homes or as they arrived at immigration centres, although the first flights are not due to depart until July.

      Around 800 officers are being deployed in Operation Vector, and home secretary James Cleverly said they were working “at pace”.

      Care4Calais said that from the first people it was in contact with, it was clear that those detained were predominantly from countries with a high rate of asylum granted by the UK.

      Hannah Marwood, head of legal access, said: “The government’s actions during this election week have been deeply worrying, but we are relieved that a significant number of people detained are now in contact with our caseworkers who will ensure they have access to legal support.

      “The people detained have not had their asylum claims processed, and it’s clear from the first cohort we are in contact with that if their claims were processed they would likely be granted refugee status in the UK.

      “It reaffirms how shameful the Rwanda plan is and why it must be stopped.”

      A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have proven time and again that Rwanda is a safe country, most recently with our landmark Safety of Rwanda Act and joint, legally binding treaty which makes clear that individuals relocated to Rwanda will not be returned to an unsafe country.

      “We remain confident in the country’s strong and successful track record in resettling people and are working at pace to get flights off the ground to Rwanda in the next to nine to eleven weeks.”