Trans asylum seeker narrowly misses Rwanda deportation date: ‘I’m glad I won’t go’

A stock photograph of a man partly in the shadows

A trans man has narrowly avoided being deported to Rwanda as part of Britain’s new hawkish immigration policy.

Daniel (not his real name) fled persecution in the Middle East and sought sanctuary in Britain in December.

If he had applied only a few weeks later after 1 January, he would be among the asylum seekers who entered Britain through so-called “irregular” routes that the Home Office will deport.

Daniel, who is in his 20s, told The Independent that as a trans man the African nation’s anti-trans laws would have put his life on the line. Trans people cannot legally change their gender and often face bogus arrests and violent detainment.

“I’m glad I won’t go. But I’m sad Britain wants to send asylum seekers who are having a hard time,” he said.

“I hope Britain does not take anyone to Rwanda.”

In Britain, Daniel said he can be “free and comfortable” unlike in his home country. But his troubles don’t end there – while officials process his asylum application he is unable to work so cannot afford gender-affirming healthcare.

“Britain is a good country. It has freedom for everyone but it has a long system for dealing with asylum seekers,” he said.

The first flight scheduled to rip asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda was grounded by a dramatic eleventh-hour ruling from the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday evening (14 June).

Seven men were due to be flown out of a military airport in Wiltshire just an hour and a half before the out-of-hours intervention was made. The court said an Iraqi man faced “a real risk of irreversible harm” if he remained on the flight.

The EC-LZO Boeing 767 was set to fly seven men from Britain to Rwanda – only for a last-minute ruling to ground it. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

This enabled lawyers for the six remaining men to lodge successful law-minute appeals. Britain’s Supreme Court will deliver a decision in July on whether the government’s policy is legal.

It was a significant and embarrassing blow to prime minister Boris Johnson, who has touted the strategy as a way to seize control over Britain’s borders post-Brexit.

Home secretary Priti Patel said the government remains undeterred by the ruling. “We will not accept that we have no right to control our borders,” she said in the House of Commons Wednesday.

The government announced in April that it had struck a five-year deal with Rwanda to allow the processing and settling of asylum seekers in the African country. Those mainly targeted by the plan are migrants who cross the Channel, usually on small boats.

The policy gives asylum seekers three options: apply for refugee status in Rwanda, apply to settle there on other grounds or seek asylum elsewhere.

The Home Office is pushing ahead with it despite admitting there is “some evidence of discrimination and intolerance” towards LGBTQ+ people in Rwanda.

In a country report on how the migration partnership will work, the department noted trans Rwandans, in particular, have been arrested for offences such as “public nuisance” or “deviant behaviour”.

To LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, this was hardly surprising. Many immediately raised alarms over how the deal will result in “gay refugees being deported to death”, said one legal expert.