UK voices 'concern' about LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in Rwanda as controversial deportation plan continues
In a 101-page report published last week, the British government set out a “Review of Asylum Processing” as part of its plans, formally announced in April, to send individuals trying to seek UK refuge to Rwanda.
The paper documented incidents of LGBTQ+ individuals facing discrimination in employment, health and the justice sector in the East African country.
"In relation to Rwanda...there are concerns over the treatment of some LGBTQI+ people but we will continue to consider the impact on this group and take into account further evidence over the course of the partnership," the government department said in an "Equality Impact Assessment" released on Monday.
The New Arab contacted the UK Home Office about these "concerns".
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our assessment concluded that LGBT+ people did not face a real risk of persecution. The overall findings were that Rwanda is fundamentally a safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers, including working with the UN Refugee Agency which said the country has a safe and protective environment for refugees."
"Homosexuality was de-criminalised in 2010. At this stage, investigations point to ill-treatment being more than one-off," reads the Home Office's own "Equality" assessment published a day before.
The UK government will begin informing people of their relocation to Rwanda this week. Flights are expected to take place in the coming months.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel admitted it will “take time” for the policy to be operational, adding: “We see various hurdles and barriers, mainly from specialist law firms that want to block the removal of individuals”.
One UK charity preparing a legal challenge against the policy is Freedom From Torture.
When asked about the prospect of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda, Freedom From Torture said to The New Arab: “We are highly concerned about the safety of sending LGBTQ+ asylum seekers to a country with such a poor record of defending LGBTQ+ people from persecution.”
“Efforts in the Home Office guidance issued last night that papered over these risks by pointing to exchanges between the Rwandan president and American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres would be laughable if the high stakes did not make them so potentially lethal,” the organisation added.
Last year, Rwandan authorities rounded up and arbitrarily detained over a "dozen gay and transgender people, sex workers, street children and others" before a high-profile conference in June, according to Human Rights Watch. People interviewed who identified as gay or transgender said that security officials accused them of “not representing Rwandan values,” the watchdog said.
According to a survey featured in the Home Office's asylum review, 89 percent of respondents classed LGBTQ+ individuals as an "immoral group".