Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images)
More than a dozen asylum seekers detained in southeast England reportedly went on a hunger strike after it was revealed that they would be sent to Rwanda as part of the UK government’s border control measure.
Britain last week said it intended to fly a first planeload of asylum-seekers to Rwanda on June 14 under a pact that has drawn threats of legal challenges from angry campaigners.
The one-way flights are intended to offer refugees a new life in Rwanda and deter others from illegally entering Britain, especially via perilous boat crossings of the Channel from France. But home secretary Priti Patel acknowledged the new policy is set to face challenges in the courts.
Some 17 asylum seekers in the Brook House detention centre near Gatwick Airport, Sussex, where cameras and smartphones are disallowed, complained of “distress and despair”, the BBC reported. But they ended their five-day hunger strike on Wednesday.
It is not officially known how many asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda on the scheduled date but the number is estimated to be around 100.
An asylum seeker from Syria said he would rather die than be sent to the African country.
“When I heard the news that we will be deported to Rwanda and that we will receive a five-year residence permit there I started hitting myself,” he was quoted as saying.
Patel said last week that the UK’s agreement with Rwanda on the deportation of refugees was “a key part of our strategy to overhaul the broken asylum system and break the evil people smugglers business model”.
The government said it had sent out the first notices to asylum claimants who are earmarked for removal to Rwanda, under a partnership worth £120 million.
“Once in Rwanda, there is a generous support package, including up to five years of training, accommodation, and healthcare on arrival,” the home office said.