Sky News: The Home Officer worker – who we have agreed to give anonymity to – has been in the asylum department for a number of years and spoke to us just days before the first flight is due to leave
A Home Officer worker has told Sky News they feel ashamed to work for the government because of its plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
They told us there is “disbelief” at the policy within their department – likening it to a form of human trafficking.
The worker – who we have agreed to give anonymity to – has been in the asylum department for a number of years and spoke to us exclusively just days before the first flight is due to leave.
They told us: “We should offer sanctuary and provide safe haven for those who need it but it feels like we are taking part in human trafficking – transporting people against their will and paying another country to take them.
Rwanda policy is ‘disgraceful’
“I think this policy is disgraceful to be honest. Since the Windrush scandal we are meant to be making ethical policy-making decisions and to create a less hostile environment.
“It is not only just going to create more hurt for those individuals but internally for the department – despite raising concerns about it, we are being told it’s our duty as civil servants to implement the policy irrespective of our concerns around it.”
The Home Office worker also told us internally staff have raised concerns with the Permanent Secretary in the Home Office around how the policy is going to be implemented; whether it is legal; and the impact on families, children, and LGBTQ asylum seekers.
They said: “The majority of staff who work for the Home Office are trying to do a job that means the UK provides safety for refugees from across the world – we are in it to try and make people’s lives better.
“But we feel like we are being forced to implement a policy that is the opposite of that and most staff disagree with that and fear that it will put people’s lives at risk rather than properly welcoming people into the UK.”
The interview comes as campaigners formally launched their court bid to stop the Government’s controversial plans.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Care4Calais and Detention Action have issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court, challenging what they describe as an “unlawful policy” by Home Secretary Priti Patel to remove asylum seekers to the east African nation.
However, a number of asylum seekers have now been served with notices telling them they will be on the first to go to Rwanda on 14 June.
Sky News has spoken to an Iranian man who is amongst those who have been told they are being put on next week’s flight to Rwanda.
The man – who we are referring to as Bahram – is in a detention centre near Gatwick airport.
‘I cannot even think about going to Rwanda’
He says he was a police commander in Iran but fled the country after refusing orders to use firearms in demonstrations in 2019.
Bahram – who is in his forties – told us he would rather go back to Iran where he believes he will be killed than be sent to Rwanda.
Bahram, who gave evidence at an international tribunal on Iran, says he was tortured and jailed in his home country before paying smugglers $13,000 to get him to the UK.
Bahram has been sent a removal notice telling him he is on a direct flight to Kigali airport in Rwanda on 14 June.
He has told he has a luggage allowance of 25 kilos but will have to make his own arrangements for excess baggage.
He refused to sign the form.
‘My safety in Rwanda cannot be guaranteed’
Speaking through an interpreter from the detention centre he said: “It’s so terrible that I can’t even define it. The whole situation. I cannot even think about it (going to Rwanda).”
I ask him if that’s because he’s afraid.
“Certainly,” he says, explaining he is afraid of an uncertain future and what will happen to his wife and children and what will happen in the future.
“I have no connection to Rwanda. My safety in Rwanda cannot be guaranteed. I prefer to be back in Iran – I know it’s certain death for me in Iran but I’d rather have that then going to Rwanda”, he said.
Asked what his message is to the British government he said: “I think either this government accepts asylum seekers then they should allow them to prove their case or otherwise they should declare we will not accept asylum seekers under any conditions.”
A Home Office spokesperson told us the Home Office is committed to constructive and open conversations with staff on its policies and said: “Our world-leading partnership with Rwanda is a key part of our strategy to overhaul the broken asylum system and break the evil people-smugglers’ business model.
“We have now issued formal directions to the first group of people due to be relocated to Rwanda, where those recognised as refugees or otherwise eligible to settle there will be given the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
“This marks a critical step towards operationalising the policy and we remain fully committed to working with Rwanda to offer safety to those seeking asylum and ultimately save lives.”