MSF responds to the English Court of Appeal’s judgement on the UK Government’s ‘Rwanda Plan’

MSF responds to the English Court of Appeal’s judgement on the UK Government’s ‘Rwanda Plan’

Sophie McCann, Migration Advocacy Adviser at Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) UK said:

“We welcome the judgement by the Court of Appeal today.

“The government's cruel plan to forcibly and permanently expel men, women and children seeking safety to Rwanda would inflict severe and irreparable harm on their health, wellbeing and dignity.

“Our mental health teams on Nauru island saw first-hand the catastrophic medical consequences of the failed Australian offshoring policy, upon which the Rwanda scheme is modelled. Two thirds of our patients fell into such despair that they self-harmed, had suicidal thoughts, or attempted to end their lives – including children as young as 9 years old.

“This scheme will not only cause terrible suffering for anyone removed to Rwanda, but also the many thousands that will inevitably be held in the UK with the threat of removal hanging over them. Men, women, and children seeking safety will become stuck in permanent legal limbo after arriving in the UK, either contained in de-facto detention centres in miserable conditions or left destitute and homeless, at risk of increased exposure of trafficking and abuse. ​ We have seen the devastating medical consequences of similar policies on the Greek islands, where MSF teams have treated hundreds of people for serious mental and physical health conditions resulting from their containment.

“Government ministers claim that the aim of the Rwanda plan is to deter people from seeking safety in the UK – however, even the Home Office’s own research warns that this ‘deterrent’ approach does not work and will only push people into using yet more dangerous routes to reach the UK. ​ Regardless of the legal judgements, this pointlessly cruel policy is unconscionable on medical, humanitarian, and ethical grounds, and this government should abandon it immediately.”

Notes to editors

1. On Nauru MSF teams saw how the enforced separation from children, partners and close family members caused further mental health deterioration and compounded people's existing trauma. The Rwanda policy is expected to lead to similar family separations, causing further psychological distress for people removed and those left behind. During the 11 months MSF worked on Nauru, 55 of our 208 patients were medically evacuated out of Nauru, the majority for psychiatric reasons, after years of distress on the island. MSF is concerned that in addition to the psychological harm that will be caused by the forced removals, people seeking safety expelled to Rwanda (or elsewhere) will struggle to access appropriate and timely healthcare. Many will likely have survived torture, sexual violence and trafficking; most will have had traumatising migration journeys. They should receive specialised care and support, not be punished, and expelled to another country which endangers them and risks exposing them to further traumatisation and harm.

2. Home Office ministers have insisted that people should use ‘safe and legal routes’ to reach the UK, and Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick recently claimed that the government would “focus our finite resources on those coming through our dedicated safe and legal routes for those directly in conflict zones.” However, the Home Secretary has been forced to admit that accessible safe and legal routes do not exist for people from the majority of countries. ​ Despite Jenrick’s claim to focus on helping those from conflict zones, Suella Braverman has also categorically ruled out creating safe routes for people fleeing the conflict in Sudan.

3. Rishi Sunak and Home Office ministers have claimed that a ‘deterrent effect’ will stop Channel crossings.x Jenrick said of the IMB in Parliament on 26 April: “The key element at the heart of the Bill is deterrence. We want to deter individuals, families or adults from going into these dinghies, putting themselves at the behest of people smugglers. Ultimately, that is the way that we protect children.” ​ However, not only is there no evidence to support this claim – the Home Office’s own internal research warns that the opposite is the case, with harsh measures only pushing people into more dangerous routes: “Restrictive migration policies may increase the number of applicants that fall into irregularity, displacing them into more dangerous and exploitative routes such as trafficking.” Home Office internal research available at:

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