"Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continues to be disgusted, disheartened and dismayed by the punitive and malicious determination with which this government is proceeding with the decision to forcibly remove people seeking asylum to Rwanda. Despite numerous legal challenges, warnings about the horrific impact this decision will have on the men, women and children affected, and the obvious moral reprehensibility of this abuse of power, the government has now issued letters to 50 people notifying them that they will be sent to Rwanda.
This government says it is sending people permanently to Rwanda to stop others from making dangerous journeys in small boats and to prevent more lives from being lost at sea. But their decisions to close safe migration routes to the UK is what forces men, women and children into boats in the first place.
Forcibly removing people to Rwanda is incredibly dangerous. MSF knows from our own operational research that when governments persecute vulnerable people in this cruel way, depriving them of their families, loved ones and support networks, with no freedom of choice, freedom of movement, or hope, it destroys lives.
In 11 months between 2017-2018 we conducted 1,526 mental health sessions for refugees and asylum seekers who had been forcibly removed from Australia to indefinite detention centres on Nauru. Data from this project exposes some of the worst mental health suffering we have encountered in our 50 years of existence, Of the people we treated, 60 per cent had suicidal thoughts, while 30 per cent had attempted suicide. Children as young as nine had suicidal thoughts and had committed acts of self-harm or attempted suicide. One-quarter had to be medically evacuated to Australia, mostly for psychiatric reasons due to years of distress trapped on Nauru. Alarmingly, six per cent of our patients -mainly children- were diagnosed with ‘resignation syndrome’, a rare psychiatric condition where patients enter a comatose state and require medical care to keep them alive. This horrifying mental health collapse was directly linked to Australia‘s offshore detention policy and the abuse it unleashed.
So long as the British government continues to play political games with the lives of those seeking our help and protection, we will continue fighting this abhorrent policy and standing with our fellow human beings. They are worthy of thought, care, consideration and respect, and deserve to be treated with humanity, not cruelty and contempt."