A man who failed to get asylum in the UK is said to have voluntarily flown to Rwanda

FILE - A security guard stands in the reception area of the Hope Hostel, which is one of the locations expected to house some of the asylum-seekers due to be sent from Britain to Rwanda, in the capital Kigali, Rwanda on June 10, 2022. Rwanda government's deputy spokesperson Alain Mukuralinda said Tuesday, April 23, 2024, it's ready to receive migrants from the United Kingdom after British Parliament this week approved a long-stalled bill seeking to stem the tide of people crossing the English Channel in small boats by deporting some to the East African country. (AP Photo, File)


KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — An unsuccessful asylum-seeker in the U.K. has voluntarily arrived in Rwanda, an official said, as the British government rounded up the first group of migrants it expects to fly to Kigali this summer.

The man, whose nationality was not disclosed, did not arrive under a controversial deal to deport to Rwanda migrants who enter the U.K. illegally, Alain Mukuralinda, deputy spokesman for the government, told The Associated Press.

“We received him yesterday and we are taking care of him,” he said. “In a few days the asylum-seeker will tell us about his wish either to stay in Rwanda or go somewhere else.”

Rwandan authorities will assess his status and decide accordingly, he said.

Last week, the U.K. Parliament approved legislation allowing deportations to Rwanda despite criticism from human rights groups that the plan is inhumane and illegal.

Although no flights have yet taken place under that policy, the U.K. government said Wednesday that it had rounded up the first group of migrants it expects to deport to Kigali this summer.

The legislation, known as the Safety of Rwanda Bill, was a response to a U.K. Supreme Court decision that blocked the deportation flights because the government couldn’t guarantee the safety of migrants sent to Rwanda. After signing a new treaty with Rwanda to beef up protections for migrants, the government proposed the new legislation declaring Rwanda to be a safe country.

Kemi Badenoch, the U.K. business and trade secretary, said the asylum-seeker who chose to leave shows that Rwanda is safe for deportees.

“We should be trumpeting it because one of the big arguments about this scheme was Rwanda wasn’t a safe country, and actually people are volunteering to go there,” Badenoch told Times Radio. “I know people who go there on holiday, a lot of people have been.”

The deportee was reportedly paid 3,000 pounds ($3,750) to leave. Badenoch told Sky News there is no “cost-free option” for border control.

The U.K. government hopes the deportations will deter migrants who risk their lives in leaky, inflatable boats in hopes that they will be able to claim asylum once they reach Britain.

The plan has been condemned by both the United Nations’ refugee agency and the Council of Europe.

Some rights groups say the way to stop the trafficking is for countries to work together to provide safe and legal routes for migrants, not for countries like Britain to put up barriers and outsource their problem to others. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said last week that deportation flights would begin in July.

The U.K. Home Office did not disclose how many migrants were snared in their roundups this week or where the detainees were being held.

“Our dedicated enforcement teams are working at pace to swiftly detain those who have no right to be here so we can get flights off the ground,” Home Secretary James Cleverly said.

Advocates for migrants denounced the detentions and images of the raids distributed by the government.

“We’re appalled at the government’s treatment of people seeking asylum, which has now sunk so low as to release footage of people in handcuffs being forced into immigration vans,” said James Wilson, director of Detention Action. “We work with people in detention every day and we see the damage caused by locking people in small cells, behind high fences, with no idea when they will be freed.”


Melley reported from London.


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