Tens of thousands of Brits demand Tories scrap Rwanda migrant plan over LGBTQ+ safety fears

Home Secretary Suella Braverman arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on June 20, 2023 in London, England

More than 50,000 Brits have called for the UK government to scrap its plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, citing fears over LGBTQ+ refugees’ safety. 

The petition, which will be handed to Downing Street on Tuesday (18 July), calls for the government to drop the Illegal Migration Bill, which is now passing through its final stages in parliament, despite the High Court ruling that the plan was “unlawful”.

The scheme, which was announced in April 2022, could see people who arrive in the UK on boats the Channel or in the back of a lorry sent to have their application processed in Rwanda. 

While homosexuality is not illegal in the country, campaigners have argued that Rwanda is unsafe for LGBTQ+ people, and even the Home Office states in its official foreign travel advice that LGBTQ+ people “can experience discrimination and abuse” in Rwanda.

“The [bill] will remove fundamental human rights from people who have fled life-threatening situations in their home countries and sought safety and protection in the UK, in order to score cheap political points – endangering them in inhumane detention centres and putting them at risk of further harm, torture, and even death if deported,” the petition, addressed to home secretary Suella Braverman, reads. 

“This includes women, children, and LGBTQI+ people fleeing countries known to be unsafe as well as victims and survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking. By doubling down on the hostile environment, the Bill will also increase the risk of people being trafficked and exploited.”

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A protester holds a placard which states "No deportations to Rwanda" during a demonstration to halt deportations of refugees to Rwanda
Protesters demonstrate against deportation flights to Rwanda outside the the Royal Courts Of Justice in London. (SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images/Vuk Valcic)

The petition will reportedly be delivered to Downing Street by representatives from several organisations, including Action Aid, Just Right Scotland, NACCOM, Praxis Community Projects, Rainbow Migration, René Cassin, Women for Refugee Women and Liberty.

Leila Zadeh, executive director at Rainbow Migration, said: “Fifty thousand people are telling this government that this bill doesn’t represent us. As caring people, most of us would welcome LGBTQI+ people who can’t be themselves in other countries and are hoping to rebuild their lives in the UK.

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“However, this government is telling them that they’ll be punished for coming here, locked up and sent away to another country, perhaps one they’ve never heard of, and that may be dangerous for LGBTQI+ people.” 

A gay Rwandan refugee previously spoke to PinkNews about the Illegal Migration Bill, explaining that the country is “definitely not a safe environment” for LGBTQ+ people. 

Innocent, whose name was changed to protect his identity, said: “[LGBTQ+ migrants] are not going to be protected, and they’re going to face discrimination.

“Some of them have already faced discrimination their entire lives and they went to the UK hoping that was going to change.”

He added: “We’re not talking about material that we can just ship to another place – they’re human beings. They have a story. They’re coming to the UK because they’ve already faced discrimination and injustice in their lives.

“So let’s create an environment and try to understand them.”

A Home Office spokesperson told PinkNews: “Our Illegal Migration Bill is a key part of our work to deter people from making small boat crossings.

“The UK has a proud record of providing protection to individuals fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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“If an individual makes a protection claim and they cannot be returned to their home country, we will relocate them to a safe third country.”

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