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Concerns Afghans fleeing Taliban could be on first Rwanda flight

So far this year 10,020 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK, analysis of Government figures by the PA news agency shows (Gareth Fuller/PA)
So far this year 10,020 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK, analysis of Government figures by the PA news agency shows (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Several Afghans are among more than 100 migrants due to be sent to Rwanda on the first flight next week, according to campaigners seeking legal action against the policy.

Nine people who fled to the UK after the Taliban takeover have been notified by the Home Office that they could be removed to the East African nation on Tuesday, Care4Calais – one of a number of organisations taking the Government to court over the plan – said.

The group said it is also aware of around 35 Sudanese, 18 Syrians, 14 Iranians, 11 Egyptians as well as Iraqi, Pakistani, Albanian, Algerian, Chadian, Eritrean, Turkish and Vietnamese people who have been told they could be put on the inaugural flight.

The Home Office has refused to confirm the nationalities of those on board but only Rwandans are exempt from the policy, suggesting that those fleeing conflict – such as in Afghanistan and Ukraine – could be considered for removal if they are deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally under new immigration rules.

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, told the PA news agency: “The logic to this plan is flawed in many ways. Just one example is that Afghans escaping from the Taliban under our settlement scheme are protected whereas those arriving in other ways will be sent to Rwanda.”

Figures published by the department last month showed people fleeing Afghanistan made up almost a quarter of the migrants crossing the Channel in the first three months of the year.

This was the most out of any nationality recorded, followed by 16% who were Iranian and 15% Iraqi – which both typically outrank Afghans in the numbers.

Cumulative successful arrivals in the UK by people crossing the English Channel in small boats
(PA Graphics)

The rise prompted concerns from campaigners that the Government’s resettlement scheme designed to help Afghans seek sanctuary in the UK in the wake of the Taliban takeover is failing and raised questions over whether Afghans could face being sent to Rwanda.

Anyone who the department considers has taken a dangerous, unnecessary or illegal journey to the UK would meet the criteria for removal to Rwanda, apart from lone migrant children who are exempt.

While officials are likely to focus on removing single adults in the initial phases of the scheme, there is the prospect families with children could be considered for removal under the policy.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The UK has made one of the largest commitments to support Afghan refugees of any country, and will resettle up to 20,000 Afghan women, children and others at risk – there is simply no need for them to come to the UK through unsafe routes.”

The department also said it had launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history to help Ukrainians fleeing the Russia invasion seek sanctuary.