MSF: Rwanda forced removals mark a dark chapter in global refugee rights

MSF: Rwanda forced removals mark a dark chapter in global refugee rights

Statement attributable to Sophie McCann, advocacy officer at MSF UK:

“The UK government’s first forced removal of refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda marks a dark chapter in global refugee rights. The plan to forcibly remove those seeking safety anywhere else outside of the UK is disgraceful, dangerous and an obfuscation of the UK’s responsibilities. It is appalling that the UK would punish individuals simply for seeking safety. 

Instead of opening doors for vulnerable people, this government has closed them. The recently passed Nationality and Borders Act has made the act of seeking asylum, a human right we all have, almost impossible. The Act says a person can only claim asylum once on UK soil, yet there is almost no way left to arrive on UK soil legally.  

We are already seeing a global trend towards policies designed to deter or at least externalise, if not end, migration. By pursuing forced expulsions, the UK is knowingly causing misery and harm, as well as emboldening other countries to further dismantle refugee rights.  

MSF has witnessed such suffering on Nauru island, where Australia enacted a similar policy of forced removals and “offshore processing.” There, 65 % of our refugee and asylum seeker patients felt that they had no control over the events in their lives. These patients were significantly more likely to be suicidal or diagnosed with major psychiatric conditions.  

MSF is also concerned that survivors of torture and children who have been wrongly age assessed as adults could be among those who will be expelled to Rwanda, exposing them to further harm. 

It is not clear what methods have been used to make these assessments. MSF supports the position of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which opposes the use of medical and radiological examinations. These are inaccurate for age assessment as they risk misclassifying children as adults, preventing them from receiving appropriate safeguards and services and exposing them to further harm, including now being forcibly removed abroad.  

In addition, this government appears to have ignored medical opinion that some due to be expelled are likely to have endured torture. MSF has provided tailored care to torture survivors and we are concerned that survivors of torture and extreme violence are among those due to be expelled from the UK, despite the horrors they have already endured and the specific medical and psychological care they require. Exposing them to further trauma by holding them in detention and forcibly removing them to Rwanda, where their ability to access to specialised care is unknown, will have catastrophic impacts on their mental and physical health.   

The UK government must abandon this policy, which is effectively tantamount to state-sanctioned trafficking, before any more harm is done.”  


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