Iain Duncan Smith wrong to say successful asylum seekers would return from Rwanda

24 June 2022
What was claimed

If asylum seekers sent to Rwanda for processing are found to be genuine refugees they will come back to the UK.

Our verdict

Incorrect. The terms of the UK’s partnership with Rwanda mean that people sent there will not return to the UK, unless the UK specifically requests it.

The people that [the government] are going to be sending [to Rwanda] are going to be essentially those that are suspected strongly of being there for economic reasons where they’ll be processed. If they’re wrong, they’ll come back to the UK.

During an interview on LBC Radio, the Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith said that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda as part of the UK’s new partnership with that country would be allowed to return to the UK if they are found not to have migrated for economic reasons—in other words, if their applications for refugee status are accepted.

This is not correct.

Under the terms of the scheme, which were published in a Memorandum of Understanding on 14 April 2022, asylum seekers whose claims are successful when they are processed in Rwanda will be settled there.

The document says: “For those recognised as refugees by Rwanda, Rwanda will grant the Relocated Individual refugee status and provide the same level of support and accommodation as a Relocated Individual seeking asylum, integration into society and freedom of movement in accordance with the Refugee Convention.”

The government’s fact sheet about the partnership says: “Those whose claims for protection are rejected will either be offered the chance to stay in Rwanda or return to their home country – they will not return to the UK once their claims have been decided by Rwanda.”

The agreement says that those whose claims are not successful, and who are not eligible to remain in Rwanda for another reason, will be removed to another country where they have a right to reside.

As Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights puts it, this means: “Claimants would not be allowed to return to the UK and would receive asylum support in Rwanda and either settlement in Rwanda or return to their country of origin.” (Although the UK may request an asylum seeker’s return to the UK under the agreement.)

During the LBC interview, the presenter, Camilla Tominey, challenged Sir Iain’s comments, saying: “I thought they stayed in Rwanda if they’ve got a processed asylum claim? They don’t come back to the UK, that’s the whole point.” Sir Iain did not address this directly in his reply.

We have contacted Sir Iain for comment, but at the time of publication, he had not responded.

Image courtesy of Richard Townshend

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted Sir Iain Duncan Smith to request a correction regarding this claim.

He did not respond. 

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