1 May 2024 - KIND UK and Central England Law Centre were saddened by the passage of the Safety of Rwanda Act (“Rwanda Act”) which became law on 25 April 2024.[1]

However, we are heartened by the Prime Minister’s statement on 23 May 2024 that there will be no forced removals to Rwanda before the general elections, scheduled to take place on 4 July 2024. Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, has pledged to scrap the government’s Rwanda scheme “straight away” if his party wins the election.

If implemented, the Rwanda Act, together with the 2023 Illegal Migration Act (“IMA”) and other immigration laws, as well as the UK’s 2023 treaty with Rwanda, would have harsh, adverse impacts on the children, young people, and adults they affect. If implemented in full, these laws would result in detention and removal to Rwanda (or other countries in which safety may remain a serious concern). Many people affected would likely face long periods of instability, poverty, and distress. It is the considered opinion of many experts, including the United Nations refugee and human rights agencies (UNHCR and OHCHR), that implementation of the Rwanda Act and the IMA would lead to violations of international law.[2]    

The Rwanda Act is at odds with the judgement of the UK Supreme Court of November 2023, which found that people sent from the UK to Rwanda would be at risk of human rights violations. The Supreme Court found that there was evidence of deep, systemic flaws in Rwanda’s asylum system. Rwanda also has a poor human rights record more generally, with evidence of murders, disappearances, torture, and other serious violations.[3]  We and others have grave concerns that these issues have not been fully addressed, and that Rwanda remains unsafe.   

The Illegal Migration Act is not fully in force as of 24 May 2024, but the leave to remain and citizenship provisions have been in force since 20 July 2023, and some other provisions have come into force since then. The removal and detention provisions are not in force, and may not be brought into force, depending on the election outcome. In addition to concerns about potential detention and removal to Rwanda, we and others are deeply concerned that the 2023 Illegal Migration Act leaves many children and adults who entered the UK irregularly on or after 7 March 2023 permanently barred from leave to remain and British citizenship.[4[ If implemented in full, the IMA would also have a costly and detrimental impact on many local authorities in the UK, as summarised in this joint statement 

We believe the UK Government should treat people seeking protection in the UK, and all children in the UK, regardless of their background, with dignity, respect, and compassion, in line with international law and standards. We hope for fair, human rights-based immigration, asylum, and nationality laws, policies, and practices 



Please note: none of the below information should be considered legal advice. It has been prepared by experts at KIND UK and CELC and is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing. However, the current situation is changing rapidly, and some of the relevant laws are new, complex and in some cases not yet in operation and/or untested. Anyone affected should seek competent legal advice. 

Q. What do the Rwanda Act and the Illegal Migration Act do 

A. In summary, the Rwanda Act requires British officials and judges to treat Rwanda as a safe country to which people can be sent if they are subject to removal from the UK under the Illegal Migration Act or other relevant laws. The Rwanda Act says legal challenges cannot be based on claims that Rwanda is generally unsafe. However, individuals can still potentially prevent their removal if they can show that they would be at “real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm if removed to the Republic of Rwanda” based on their own particular circumstances. 

In some cases, it may also be possible to prevent removal, for example if the correct procedures have not been followed or if there should be an exception to the application of the Illegal Migration Act (when it is in force) (or another relevant law).   

A more detailed summary of the Rwanda Act is available for legal advisers on Free Movement 

In summary, the Illegal Migration Act,  

  • Bars most people who entered the UK irregularly (who meet the criteria of the removal provisions) on or after 7 March 2023 from ever being granted leave to remain or British citizenship, unless an exception applies. There are potential exceptions for: 1) unaccompanied children; 2) victims of trafficking who are cooperating with an investigation; or 3) where failure to grant limited leave to remain would result in a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), other international law, or there are exceptional circumstances; or where failure to grant indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship would result in a violation of the ECHR.  

  • When fully in force, would require the Government to remove people who have entered the UK irregularly on or after 20 July 2023, if they have not come directly from a country where their ‘life and liberty were threatened by reason of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’.Removal would be permanent and to a country the Government considers to be safe, in many cases Rwanda (if possible). The UK Government would not consider whether the person subject to removal under the IMA is a refugee or in need of humanitarian protection. There are some limited exceptions in the IMA, but these may be difficult to access.  

  • If brought fully into force, would expand powers to detain people who are subject to removal under the Act.  

[Note: the IMA contains various other provisions; this is a limited selection]. 


Q: Who can the UK Government send to Rwanda?  

A: As noted above, on 23 May, the Prime Minister announced there will be no forced removals to Rwanda prior to the general elections on 4 July 2024, and the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, has pledged to scrap it.

Prior to 23 May, the Government had begun targeting certain people for removal to Rwanda. Under laws existing before the IMA, the Government has the power to remove certain people whose asylum claims have been declared inadmissible in the UK. According to Home Office guidance, people whose asylum claims have been declared inadmissible may be removed to Rwanda if their ‘journey to the UK can be described as having been dangerous; they are not/do not have children under age 18; and they applied for asylum on or after 1 January 2022.[5] Nationals of Rwanda or the EU are not at risk of removal to Rwanda under this policy.  

On 13 May 2024, the Home Office published new guidance saying that ‘failed asylum seekers in the UK can also be forcibly removed to Rwanda. This included people whose asylum or human rights applications have been refused or withdrawn (or treated as withdrawn), who do not have an appeal pending, and who have not been granted leave to remain in the UK on another basis.[6] The guidance indicates that if a ‘failed asylum seeker’ has made a new application (‘further submissions’), this application should be considered, and removal to Rwanda considered only if the further submissions are rejected. 

Subject to limited exceptions, if the removal provisions of the IMA are brought into force, the Government would have a duty to remove people who entered the UK irregularly on or after 20 July 2023* (if they meet the IMA criteria for removal). *The Government could change the 20 July date to a later date.  

Some people have been asked if they want to go to Rwanda voluntarily. News reports indicate that at least one person who had been refused asylum in the UK accepted such an offer, with a payment from the UK Government of £3,000, and flew to Rwanda on 29 April 2024.[7]  


Q: What can people do if they receive a written notice or phone call about sending them to Rwanda?  

A: We hope that no one will be receiving such calls or notices from 23 May to 4 July. However, if they do, please note that before a person can be removed from the UK, they must receive a Notice informing them that they are at risk of being removed. This should inform them of: 

  • The country to which they will be removed 

  • That they have a right to appeal against removal 

  • The time limit for appealing 

Legal advice: People who have received a notice that they will be removed to Rwanda should seek legal advice about whether they need to formally challenge this, given the current situation. The deadlines for challenging removal are very short – but it may be possible to extend them.  

MPs: In some areas, it might also help to contact a Member of Parliament to request help for people threatened with removal to Rwanda. The contact details for the relevant MP can be found here:  Find your MP - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament 

Voluntary departure: If a person receives an offer to go to Rwanda on a voluntary basis, they can choose whether or not to accept. It is advisable to ask for the offer to be sent in writing and seek legal advice before agreeing or signing anything, to ensure the terms and consequences of accepting such an offer are understood.  

Mental health: People who are at risk of removal to Rwanda may be struggling emotionally and should talk to someone trustworthy and seek professional mental health support if needed, through their GP and/or an appropriate charity. If feeling desperate and/or considering harming themselves, they can ring:  

  • NHS on 111  

  • Samaritans Helpline on 116-123 

  • Childline on 0800 1111(*under age 19) 

  • 999 if it is an emergency 

There is more information here: Help for suicidal thoughts - NHS (www.nhs.uk) 

For more information and resources 

Q: How can people at risk of removal to Rwanda find a solicitor or qualified legal adviser?  

A: It is important to seek advice from a qualified solicitor or legal adviser if at all possible. People in need of legal advice about possible removal to Rwanda can try these (or other) options: 

Q: How many people will be sent to Rwanda?  

A: There is now a good possibility that no one will be forcibly transported to Rwanda. If the Rwanda plan does go ahead, it is unclear how many people could be removed to Rwanda. The UK Government has said there is no cap. But the numbers will be based on how many people can actually be removed from the UK (despite legal and other potential challenges to removal) and how many the Rwandan Government has capacity for.[8]  


Q: How do the Rwanda Act and the Illegal Migration Act affect children? 

A: Under law and policies current as of 24 May 2024, our understanding is that unaccompanied children (under 18) are not at risk of being sent to Rwanda but if the Rwanda removal plans should proceed after the elections, some children who the Home Office treat as adults may be at risk of removal to Rwanda; and some children in families of ‘failed asylum asylum seekers’ could be at risk of removal to Rwanda.[9] 

Under the IMA provisions which are already in force, many children who entered the UK irregularly from 7 March 2023 are barred from being granted leave to remain or British citizenship, unless an exception applies. 

If the removal and detention provisions of the IMA should come into force: 

  • Children who entered the UK irregularly and unaccompanied by an adult parent or carer from 20 July 2023 may be granted temporary leave to remain in the UK, but after turning 18, they face being barred from leave to remain and subject to removal (to Rwanda or another allegedly safe country).[10]  

  • In addition, the IMA gives the Home Office the power to remove unaccompanied children from the UK in certain circumstances, including: to be reunited with a parent; to be removed to a country designated as safe in which they have citizenship, or a passport or identity document; or, if they have not made a human rights or protection claim, to a country where the child has nationality, a passport or identity document, or a country from which they entered the UK; or in other circumstances set out in (future) regulations. 

  • Children who entered the UK irregularly with family members or carers from 20 July 2023 (if they fall within removal criteria) will be subject to removal to Rwanda or another allegedly safe country, unless an exception is made (but there is no general exception for children who are with their family members) 

Children (or those assisting them) who may be affected by these laws, or who otherwise need support, could try contacting  children’s charities, legal advisers, and/or the children’s services team at the local council for the area in which they live to request assessment of whether they are children in need, or (especially if not with their parents) to ask if they are entitled to be ‘looked after’, and to ask whether the local authority can help them in other ways.  

Q: What will happen to people if they are sent to Rwanda?  

A: No one knows exactly what will happen to people if the UK Government sends them to Rwanda. The UK and Rwandan Governments claim these people would be treated humanely, given a place to live, be granted permission to remain in Rwanda permanently, have access to free medical care, attend school (if appropriate based on age), and be allowed to work; and that people who fear persecution in their home countries would be able to apply for asylum. The Rwandan Government says new arrivals would stay in a ‘hostel’ for three months, where meals, healthcare, internet, sports facilities, worship rooms, and orientation will be provided. According to an April 2024 article in the Guardian, there are surveillance cameras and armed guards at the arrival hostel, but the Rwandan Government says it is not a detention centre – people would be able to come and go if they wish. People would be expected to move to other accommodation after the first three months and be provided support for five years.  

Many experts have concerns about how people removed from the UK would be treated in Rwanda, especially if they criticise the Rwandan Government, if they are LGBTQI+, stateless, or face increased risks for other reasons. It is unclear whether survivors of torture, gender-based violence, or other trauma or who have mental health conditions would be provided with adequate treatment and support.[11] Even if allowed to work, people may struggle to find jobs in Rwanda due to lack of opportunities, language, cultural, or other barriers. Children may face child-specific abuses, such as physical punishment in school and/or at home, with a lack of adequate protection.[12]  

Q: Have people been detained in the UK for the purposes of removal to Rwanda, and what can they do if they are detained?  

A: The Government has the power to detain people who are subject to imminent removal from the UK. However, there is currently not enough space in immigration detention centres to detain everyone who is potentially subject to removal from the UK 

Reports indicate that the Government started detaining people in advance of potential removal to Rwanda from 29 April 2024. This included detaining asylum seekers at routine immigration or asylum appointments or reporting events, and in other locations. However, this detention may be unlawful, and some people detained for potential removal to Rwanda have been released on bail.  

People who may be subject to removal to Rwanda may wish to seek legal advice before reporting to or attending any appointments with immigration services or the Home Office, keep with them (and/or memorise) contact details for a charity or lawyer who may be able to help them, such as Care4Calais, Bail for Immigration Detainees, or others (see contact details in the Legal Advice section above), ask someone they know to go with them to a reporting centre and seek help if they do not come out within a normal timeframe, and/or take other precautions. Smart phones are taken away when people are detained, and non-smart phones issued instead. It may help to save important numbers to the sim card (rather than to a phone handset) and write them down on paper so the numbers will be still available with a replacement phone. Detainees may wish to ask to speak to a solicitor if asked to unlock their phone. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit also has suggestions on their website, here: Removals to Rwanda - Important Information - GMIAU. 

People who are detained should seek legal advice from a solicitor or legal adviser who works on detention matters if possible. It may be possible to get out of detention, depending on the circumstances. See the section above about legal advice. 

Right to Remain has an Immigration Reporting and Detention Toolkit, which includes information on what immigration detention is like in the UK and how to prepare for the possibility of detention. 

People who are detained can also see support from the Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees (AVID) (aviddetention.org.uk), a network of groups who visit people who are detained for immigration reasons.  

Q : Will the Government start forcibly removing people to Rwanda? 

A: On 23 May, 2024, the Prime Minister confirmed there will be no forced removals to Rwanda before the general elections, which are scheduled to take place on 4 July 2024.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has indicated that it is his intention to go ahead with the removals to Rwanda if his party wins the general election, stating, “If I am re-elected as prime minister on 5 July, these flights will go… we will get our Rwanda scheme up and running.”

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, said that his party would not allow any deportation flights to take off for Rwanda if it wins the election. He has also pledged to scrap the Rwanda scheme “straight away". 

Justright Scotland: Rwanda removals plan: what you can do to support asylum seekers in Scotland: support orgs guide (justrightscotland.org.uk) 

Fact Sheet about the judgement of a High Court in Northern Ireland (of 13 May 2024) which found that parts of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 are unlawful and cannot be applied in Northern Ireland: Illegal-Migration-Act-Challenge-Fact-Sheet-updated-May-2024.pdf (nihrc.org) 

This was prepared by Cynthia Orchard, Consultant Policy Advisor at Kids in Need of Defense UK (hosted at Central England Law Centre), with contributions from colleagues at KIND UK, CELC and other organisations. Thanks to all who contributed. 

Published 3 May 2024; updated 24 May 2024 


[1] Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act (legislation.gov.uk).
[2] See UK-Rwanda asylum law: UN leaders warn of harmful consequences | UNHCR
[3] See Supreme Court ruling on Rwanda policy and implications for the Illegal Migration Act – Kids In Need Of Defense UK. 
[4] See Briefing: The Illegal Migration Act 2023: Leave to Remain and British Citizenship for Children – Kids In Need Of Defense UK. 
[5] Inadmissibility: safe third country cases (Version 17.0, 28 June 2022), page 17. See also Cost-chaos-and-human-misery-the-impact-of-the-IMA-2023-and-the-Rwanda-Plan-April-2024.pdf (refugeecouncil.org.uk), p 4, which also says: “As well as Rwanda, it is possible that a small number of people will be removed to other countries, especially if someone already has refugee status in that country. However, those numbers will be very small. Since the existing inadmissibility process came into effect at 23:00 on 31 December 2020, of the 77,304 claims that have been identified as potentially inadmissible, only 84 have been declared inadmissible. Of those, only 25 people have actually been removed.” 
[6] See eg Failed asylum seeker given £3,000 to go to Rwanda – BBC News. 
[7] Failed asylum seeker given £3,000 to go to Rwanda – BBC News.
[8] See Q&A: The UK’s policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – Migration Observatory – The Migration Observatory (ox.ac.uk); Sunak and his cabinet think one packed Rwanda flight will save them. It won’t | Enver Solomon | The Guardian;  Cost-chaos-and-human-misery-the-impact-of-the-IMA-2023-and-the-Rwanda-Plan-April-2024.pdf (refugeecouncil.org.uk); and 2,000 migrants set to be sent to Rwanda in first six months, Government believes (inews.co.uk). 
[9] Lone children at risk of deportation to Rwanda after being classified as adults, says charity | Immigration and asylum | The Guardian
[10] Briefing: The Illegal Migration Act 2023: Leave to Remain and British Citizenship for Children
[11] See eg  the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child‘s Concluding observations on the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Rwanda, pp 5-6, of 28 February 2020, condemning the extensive use of corporal punishment in schools and in the home.
[12] A union for civil servants has already initiated a legal challenge relating to the Rwanda Act, and there will no doubt be numerous challenges by people facing removal to Rwanda. Rwanda: Civil servants mount court challenge over new law – BBC News.