No evidence one refugee from Rwanda will come to the UK for every asylum seeker sent there

15 June 2022
What was claimed

The UK has signed an agreement that says for every asylum seeker it sends to Rwanda, it will bring back one vulnerable refugee to the UK.

Our verdict

There’s no evidence this is the case. The memorandum of understanding for the agreement does say the UK will resettle “a portion” of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees, but does not say how many.

A video on YouTube has claimed that the UK will accept as many refugees from Rwanda as asylum seekers that it sends there, as part of its asylum partnership arrangement with the country. Our readers have also asked us to look into this claim. 

The man in the video claims that “Britain has signed an agreement that for every asylum seeker we fly to Rwanda, we will bring back one of those vulnerable refugees to our country in exchange. If we land 50 refugees of our own in Rwanda, then the plane will fly back to this country with 50 of the most vulnerable refugees from the Congo and Burundi.”

He therefore claims that the UK will not reduce the number of refugees and asylum seekers it has overall as a result of the policy.

While the agreement between the UK and Rwanda does say that the countries will make arrangements “to resettle a portion of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees in the United Kingdom”, it does not say that the number will be the same as the number of asylum seekers sent by the UK to Rwanda.

The Home Office has also told Full Fact that this is “absolutely not the case”.

We do not yet know how many refugees the UK will resettle from Rwanda. In answer to a parliamentary question on 8 June 2022, Baroness Williams said it would amount to “a small number”. She also said: “More details on the resettlement of vulnerable refugees will be set out in due course.”

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What does the agreement with Rwanda say?

The man in the video says his argument is based on the memorandum of understanding between the UK and Rwanda, signed in April 2022, a link to which he includes on the YouTube description.

This agreement, which is not legally binding in international law, does say: “The Participants will make arrangements for the United Kingdom to resettle a portion of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees in the United Kingdom, recognising both Participants’ commitment towards providing better international protection for refugees.”

But it doesn’t give any more information on how many vulnerable refugees from Rwanda the UK will resettle. 

What is the government’s Rwanda plan?

The government is planning to send asylum seekers who arrived to the UK illegally to Rwanda, so their asylum claims can be considered there under Rwanda’s domestic asylum system. Under this scheme, if successful, they will not return to the UK, but will have refugee status in Rwanda. If they are not successful, they may be removed from Rwanda.

At the start of the video, the man claims: “The idea is of course that 40 or 50 people whose request for asylum has not been accepted in Britain will be deported to the African country of Rwanda.”

This is misleading, because the people won’t necessarily have had their asylum request rejected in the UK before being sent to Rwanda—their asylum claims may not have been started in the UK. So while it’s true that their requests have “not been accepted” here, that doesn’t mean they’ve been rejected or started either.

The Home Office says the arrangement will see “those travelling to the UK through illegal, dangerous and unnecessary methods considered for relocation to Rwanda, where they will have their asylum claim processed”. 

It adds that “every person who comes to the UK illegally [from 1 January 2022], or by dangerous or unnecessary methods from safe countries – including those arriving by small boats, hidden in the back of lorries and found in the UK without leave” will be considered for relocation to Rwanda.

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