People have started being detained for Rwanda flights. Here’s what we can do

People have started being detained for Rwanda flights. Here’s what we can do

By: Izzie McIntosh
Date: 1 May 2024
Campaigns: Migration

Rishi Sunak’s shameful Rwanda Bill became law last week. Now his government has started detaining people in anticipation of the first flights, even though they’re expected to be weeks away, if they ever happen. It’s clear they’re trying to spread fear and division ahead of the tomorrow’s local elections.

Across the UK, people who have sought safety in the UK are being rounded up by immigration officials to be held against their will in detention centres – where conditions are harrowing – or possibly in even more inappropriate accommodation like the Bibby Stockholm barge. They will be waiting fearfully to be forced onto a plane, and flown to a place they never asked to go to, and where the UK’s Supreme Court has ruled they may not be safe.

It’s cruel, unjust and inexcusable. People have the right to move, and the right to seek safety in another country if facing threat or conflict at home. Now, in the UK, they are being met with gross inhumanity from a government happy to toy with their lives so it can play to the gallery of the right-wing media.

Many of us are disgusted by this and wanting to act however we can. And I truly believe that across the political spectrum, many in the UK do not want to see people being treated in this way. We need to keep raising awareness of the cruelty of this policy – how it seeks to violate and dehumanise people, leaving them at risk of removal to places where their lives might be in danger. Continuing to demonstrate opposition to this plan is one of the best ways we have to reverse this policy, and to help individuals who are being targeted.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of actions that organisations and activists leading the fight against the Rwanda plan are taking to try to stop removals, show solidarity and raise awareness of the reality of this policy. Choose which ones work best for you or take all four – any of them could help disrupt this government’s plans and delay or prevent planes to Rwanda from leaving the UK.

1. Find out if there’s a demo in your area

The government has already started detaining people when they arrive at places called reporting centres in recent days. These are centres, located in various locations across the UK, where people without secure immigration status are made to travel regularly as part of government surveillance of their lives and whereabouts. Groups are organising demos and stalls outside these centres to show solidarity with people going in and advise them of their rights. (Not everyone seeking asylum is covered by the Rwanda plan, so it’s also important to reassure people who aren’t affected).  You can find out if a demo is happening near you through the Anti-Raids Network, or Action Against Detention and Deportations – a coalition that Global Justice Now is part of.

For example, one is happening in Hounslow right now, there’s a protest in Downing Street tonight, and a solidarity gathering in Manchester on Friday.

2. Sign this petition to the government, from someone facing deportation to Rwanda

No one should be forcibly removed to Rwanda by this dangerous and cynical government, or any other. This petition uses one person’s story to demonstrate the injustice of the Rwanda plan, highlighting the circumstances of people being threatened with removal and demand that no one is removed from the UK under this policy. As the government’s plans to remove people progress, we urgently need to keep raising awareness of the cruelty of this policy – signing this petition can help do that. 

Sign the petition

3. Tell airlines not to profit from pain

If Rishi Sunak wants to deport people to Rwanda, he needs planes to get them there. AirTanker, a private airline, is reported to be in talks with the government about flying people to Rwanda. Our allies at Freedom From Torture are asking people to email AirTanker and demand they rule themselves out of flying people seeking asylum to a place where they may not be safe, against their will. You can email them here:

Email the airlines

4. Share information for people facing deportation

This government is doing whatever it can to dehumanise people and strip them of their rights. If people are detained, it’s vital that as many as possible have information and contact details for organisations that might be able to help them. There could still be a chance to stop their removal through legal work, even once they have been detained. Action Against Detention and Deportations have put together a card with key contact details on it – can you share it and get others you know to do the same? You never know who might see it when they really need it.

We need to do whatever we can to raise awareness of the abject cruelty of this policy, demonstrate the huge opposition to Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda plan, and try and stop planes getting off the ground. Taking any one of these actions could help do just that.

Photo: David Mirzoeff/Global Justice Now