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Is this really how we treat each other now? Our statement on the Rwanda plan

We are so relieved that the deportation flight could not take off last night. It should never have come to this though. The men threatened with deportation, those who were taken off the flight last minute. Their families, and their communities. They have been through unnecessary hell. Our hearts broke last night for the few left on the flight as others won their cases to be removed – our hearts broke for the fear, isolation and desperation they must have been feeling. For the trauma that has been inflicted. Is this really how we treat each other now?

Where is the humanity? These plans are stoking fear in people already here. These are people who have been forced to leave their home, fleeing violence, war and persecution, people who have survived trauma and are now being punished for the way they entered the country rather than looking at why they came here. If the UK goes ahead with these plans, they are complicit in retraumatising people, choosing punishment over protection for carrying out a very human act; seeking safety and protection when you and/or your family’s safety is threatened.

These plans are as hypocritical as they are cruel. They are a part of a two-tier system, which elevates those given the opportunity to flee via a resettlement route over those who are forced to arrive by other methods. We fully support the welcome that has been shown to people fleeing the horrors in Ukraine. But it stands in stark contrast to the hostility shown to people coming across the channel, despite the fact that they too are fleeing horrendous circumstances.  The fact that they are now not even allowed to seek sanctuary here, but will instead be removed to a different country on a different continent, is appalling.

Not only this, but it is a huge oversight of the contribution that people seeking sanctuary here make to our communities.  The people, the skills and the knowledge that we will lose by removing people to Rwanda is to our detriment.

The government argue that people should stop in the first safe country they reached. There are lots of arguments against this, but one lawyer recently tweeted this explanation, detailing why it is that the proportionally few people do choose to come here. There is also no rule that says people have to stop in the first safe country they reach and in fact, the majority live in countries neighbouring the country they fled from.

There will be a lot in the news over the next few days about “lefty” lawyers and activists using the law to stop these flights. The law is not a political tool. Human rights laws are there to stop the mistreatment, forced movement and degradation of people. And we should be so grateful they exist.

Thank you to everyone who spoke up for sanctuary, and who raised their voices to protect people. To the people who joined us at Bristol Defend Asylum Seeker’s Campaign last Saturday, who wrote to the airlines, who campaigned to the very last minute to stop the flight going. To the lawyers who worked tirelessly to ensure human rights were protected.  Yesterday’s fight was won because of the dedication of so many to upholding people’s human rights. The battle isn’t over though. We have to do everything we can to ensure that this plan becomes history.

We can keep calling for a fairer system. Join our campaign by signing up to our newsletter, following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also share this article with a friend.

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