Information on the policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda
Here's what we know so far about the government's Rwanda asylum plan and how it may impact new rules for asylum seekers in the UK.
Last updated 16 November 2023
What is the new Rwanda asylum plan?
On 15 November 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that the government policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful.
The policy was first announced on 14 April 2022 as a new plan for immigration management. It seeks to reduce the number of people seeking asylum in the UK. The plan could see some people who came to the UK without a visa or other permission to enter the country be sent to Rwanda to have their asylum claim processed and decided there.
On 19 December 2022, the High Court concluded that the plan was lawful. This was reversed on 29 June 2023 when the Court of Appeal ruled that the plan was unlawful.
The case was then taken to the Supreme Court and on 15 November 2023, the court ruled the policy is unlawful. The government says it is considering next steps, but in the meantime no asylum seekers can be sent to Rwanda.
How has the British Red Cross responded to the asylum plans?
Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive says:
“Outsourcing our asylum obligations should play no part in the UK’s refugee system. We are hearing directly from many people about the distress and anxiety recent announcements have provoked. Even though they may not be directly impacted by them, this policy has had a huge impact on the men, women, and children seeking safety here.
“It also comes at a huge cost to the taxpayer and will do little to prevent people from risking their lives to flee from war, violence, and persecution. Again and again, we hear from people that they have no prior knowledge of the UK's asylum system, so making it harsher will do nothing to stop them from seeking safety on our shores.
“People come here for reasons we can all understand, like wanting to be reunited with loved ones, or because they speak the language. Some have no choice at all, as smugglers choose their destination for them.
“We want to work with government to create a fairer, more compassionate, and effective system. As a nation, we should provide alternatives to dangerous journeys, improve decision-making to reduce the backlog of applications and ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process."
When does the plan to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda start?
It can apply to anyone who came to the UK without a visa or other permission to enter the country from 1 January 2022.
However, on 29 June 2023, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Rwanda policy is unlawful. This reversed the judgment that the High Court handed down in December 2022. The case was then taken to the Supreme Court and on 15 November 2023, the court ruled the policy is unlawful.
The government says it is considering next steps, but in the meantime no asylum seekers can be sent to Rwanda.
How will the government decide who should go to Rwanda?
When people claim asylum in the UK, their application is considered by the UK government. If the government believes someone has travelled through other countries it deems ‘safe’ before reaching the UK, and that they could have claimed asylum along their journey, the government may decide that their asylum claim is ‘inadmissible'.
This means that the government can try to send the person to another country they consider to be safe, such as Rwanda.
Before someone with an inadmissible asylum claim is sent to another country, the government must have assessed that the other country would be safe. The Supreme Court judgment on 15 November 2023 concluded that the Rwanda policy is unlawful. This means no one seeking asylum can be sent to Rwanda.
Who would be affected by this new asylum policy, if it was lawful?
This Rwanda asylum plan could apply to anyone who came to the UK without a visa or other permission to enter the country and then applied for asylum.
Would the asylum policy affect people who crossed the Channel in small boats?
Since most people crossing the Channel in small boats do not have visas or other permission to enter the UK, the government could decide that their asylum claim is inadmissible in the UK. They may then be sent to Rwanda.
The Rwanda policy could also apply to people who entered the country through other dangerous journeys, such as hidden in lorries.
I have family in the UK. Will I be able to stay here?
We are not sure yet. If you have family in the UK and have not been able to find them, please contact your nearest British Red Cross refugee service.
We may be able to help. If you're looking for lost family, our family reunion service may be able to help you.
If I am sent to Rwanda, who will assess my asylum claim?
People seeking asylum who are sent to Rwanda will have their asylum claims assessed by the Rwandan government. People would not be going through the UK’s asylum process in another country, and they would not be able to return to the UK.
Instead, they would be given permission to live in Rwanda.
Does the asylum policy apply to people under 18?
Unaccompanied children will not be affected by this Rwanda asylum policy and will be able to stay in the UK while the government assesses their case.
If you are a young refugee or asylum seeker living in the UK, find if the Red Cross may be able to support you with settling into life in the UK.
Could the Rwanda policy apply to people who have been trafficked?
The Rwanda policy could see someone who has been trafficked and then applied for asylum and had their claim deemed inadmissible, potentially be sent to Rwanda.
The Home Office will assess each case individually to decide whether people are suitable to be relocated. The detail of these assessments has not been made public yet.
How the Red Cross can help
We will keep monitoring the situation and will update this page as soon as we know more.
If you are finding it hard to cope, you can use the information and activities on our website to help when you feel anxious, stressed, or confused.