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Children still at risk of detention and removal to Rwanda

19 September 2023

The Government has refused to rule out the detention and removal of children to Rwanda, after facing pressure from a cross-party committee of MPs to abandon any intention to do so.

The Home Office’s response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on Equality and the UK asylum process, published today, also rejects the Committee’s conclusion that the asylum system creates unnecessary harmful risks to the most vulnerable asylum seekers.

The Committee’s report urged the Government to set out plans to mitigate the risks of harm to asylum seekers with protected characteristics, including women who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence, LGBT people, children and disabled people. After its in-depth inquiry, the Committee found that risks of harm to vulnerable groups are likely to be exacerbated by the Nationality and Borders Act and Illegal Migration Act.,

Instead, the Government has defended its approach, including moving pregnant women, new mothers and babies between asylum accommodation settings, sometimes without clinical advice. The Home Office has also ignored MPs’ plea for more data on the treatment of pregnant women and new mothers in the asylum system.

Responding to the Committee’s recommendation to increase financial support for asylum seekers, including an additional uplift for women to help address period poverty, the Government has defended existing provisions. The Government has refused to link asylum support to annually uprated mainstream benefits, to ensure that payments for essentials keep up with cost-of-living inflation.

Chair's comment

Women and Equalities Committee Chair, Caroline Nokes MP, said:

“Today we hear the Government remains unwilling to rule out entirely plans to detain child asylum seekers or their removal to Rwanda. It is deeply disappointing that the Government has not listened to the concerns raised in our report on the risks of harm to children in the asylum system.

“Despite compelling evidence demonstrating the unnecessary risks created by recent legislation and the weaknesses of the Government’s equality impact assessments, its response to our report shows the Government has no intention to address or even recognise genuine concerns.

“It is unacceptable the Home Office remains unable to set out a clear plan to monitor and mitigate the unequal effects of the asylum process. We are particularly concerned about the dangerous practice of moving pregnant women and new mothers without their consent or approval from medical professionals and the lack of adequate financial and practical support for them.

“Alarmingly, the Government will not even publish data on the number of pregnant women and new mothers in the system or the number of times they have been moved, so we cannot accurately measure the scale of the problem.

“The Home Office needs to listen to those who raise concerns rather than simply bunker down and defend policies and practices that are found to be inadequate. We will continue to carefully monitor these issues as we are not convinced the Government has taken our recommendations seriously.”

Further Information

Image: UK Parliament/Tyler Allicock