West London refugee charities celebrate scrapping of Rwanda scheme

Image: Refugees at Home’s guest “J”

Scrapping of “inhumane” policy is a “huge relief”

Charities supporting refugees and asylum seekers in west London are celebrating the scrapping of the Rwanda deportation scheme, which Prime Minister Keir Starmer said on Saturday (6 July) is “dead and buried”.

The previous Conservative government first announced the plan in 2022. It was devised to deport those fleeing war, persecution and insecurity who arrived in Britain without permission. Despite arguments that Rwanda was not a safe destination, nor that it was fair or reasonable to deport such vulnerable people with no hope of return, the Conservatives pressed on, arguing it would put an end to asylum seekers arriving on small boats.

Both Refugees at Home and West London Welcome said the formal ending of the Rwanda policy was a huge relief for them and the people who rely on the services of their respective charities. Critics of the policy described it as inhumane and the UK Supreme Court ruled it would breach international law if flights went ahead.

In response to the new Labour government scrapping the scheme, Refugees at Home, which arranges hosting for asylum-seekers and refugees who need somewhere to stay upon arriving in the UK,  shared the “shameful” experience of “J” – one of their guests who was at risk of deportation.

J, who’s identity has been protected, was arrested with roughly 100 others on 1 June, as part of what the charity described as a “performative, would-be immediate deportation”. J was then detained in the infamous Brook House, an immigration removal centre where a 2023 public enquiry found “credible evidence” of human rights abuses.

J was released three weeks later, when there was no chance of imminent deportation. He was bailed to Refugees at Home, but still had the threat of deportation hanging over him.

“Now he can think about his future here”, the charity added, “But what a thing to do to a pleasant young man who has done nothing worse than claim asylum.”

Image: Refugees at Home Co-founder Sara Nathan OBE (centre-left) with her husband the composer Malcolm Singer (centre-right) and two refugees they have hosted

“An act of performative cruelty”

Since they started in 2916, Refugees at Home have hosted more than 5,000 people for 500,000 nights. They always need hosts in west London – where one of the founders lives and hosts – and would love to hear from anyone with a spare room and a welcome to give.

Welcoming the news the scheme would be scrapped, Sara Nathan OBE, Co-Founder and Trustee of Refugees at Home, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Refugees at Home wholly welcomes the abandoning of the Rwanda scheme. It was always cruel and expensive, while also unlikely to attain the policy objectives of deterring desperate people from claiming asylum in the U.K.

“We have hosted several guests detained in grim detention centres before the local elections and then bailed to our hosts, when it became clear that no deportations would happen immediately or, probably, ever.

“It was an act of performative cruelty to detain people who had fled war and persecution, just for political advantage and we are pleased to have helped some of those detained straight after their release.

“We also hope the Home Office will make speedy decisions so that our guests can settle into their new lives in the UK and start to contribute to society, as they are so keen to do.”

Image: Joanne MacInnes with the team at West London Welcome

West London Welcome calls for UK to create safe routes for Asylum seekers

West London Welcome, spearheaded by Joanne MacInnes, focuses on providing essential services, advocacy, and community integration for refugees.

The charity help two hundred people each week, and runs a community centre for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Hammersmith. They also offer legal and housing advice, as well as mental health, education and employment support.

Joanne MacInnes, Founder of West London Welcome, called on the new Labour government to adhere to their international obligations and to open safe and legal routes for those trying to enter the UK on small boats.

Joanne told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Everyone in our West London Welcome community is hugely relieved and celebrating that the Rwanda policy has been scrapped.

“We would now like to see the new Government creating safe routes to claim asylum in the UK so people don’t have to risk their lives at sea.

“This is the only humane way to prevent people making life-threatening journeys by boat and is in keeping with the principles and obligations of the 1951 Refugee Convention, of which the UK are still signatories.’