MSF UK reaction to passing of Safety of Rwanda bill

MSF UK reaction to passing of Safety of Rwanda bill

The Safety of Rwanda bill is cruel and profoundly dangerous. MSF UK opposes the principle of this approach on medical, ethical and humanitarian grounds. 

The UK government's plan to forcibly and permanently expel people seeking safety in the UK – including children and survivors of torture and trafficking to Rwanda, is inhumane. It also undermines the letter and the spirit of the Refugee Convention and other international and domestic obligations, setting a worrying precedent for other countries to follow.    

The passing of the 'Safety of Rwanda bill' marks another dark chapter in the UK's brutal approach to migration, which is rooted in policies of deterring, externalising and punishing people for seeking protection in the UK. Such approaches are well documented to cause significant medical and humanitarian harm and ultimately costs lives.     

MSF has seen first-hand the devastating medical and humanitarian consequences of a similar disastrous ‘offshoring’ policies implemented by the Australian Government, where almost two thirds of our patients forcibly expelled to Nauru island suffered from suicidal ideation and self-harm, including amongst children as young as nine years old. There, our medical teams witnessed some of the worst mental health suffering in our organisation’s 50-year history.    

Now, we are horrified that history is repeating itself.  

We are also deeply concerned that the Rwanda bill ​ may trigger a mental health crisis amongst the tens of thousands of people who are at risk of being forcibly removed to Rwanda, including our patients and those being held in the mass containment site at RAF Wethersfield in Essex.  

In November 2023 MSF UK, in partnership with Doctors of the World UK, launched a mobile clinic providing primary healthcare to the men living on the site, outside the main gates of Wethersfield due to concerns over unresolved and unmet health needs. Our medical consultations reveal that our patients – many of whom have had traumatic journeys to the UK - are showing signs of serious mental distress, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm and suicidal ideation, with many people telling us the containment site is contributing to their poor mental health.  

This dire mental health situation is a particular concern and The Safety of Rwanda bill will only exacerbate this.  

The UK government must immediately abandon this cruel and abhorrent approach. Instead, it should focus on establishing safe routes to the UK and on creating a functioning, fair and efficient asylum system, which respects the health and dignity of people seeking safety in the UK.  

Dr Natalie Roberts Executive Director of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders UK


About MSF UK

This is the press room for MSF UK - the UK office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

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