What is the Rwanda asylum plan?

The Rwanda scheme is the government's cruel plan to send people who are seeking asylum in the UK away to Rwanda. This article explains all you need to know about the plan and how we're fighting against it.

In Freedom from Torture's therapy rooms up and down the country, the survivors of torture we work with have expressed their feelings of hopelessness in response to the government’s plans. 

With the 'Safety of Rwanda' Bill having just passed, find out what the Rwanda plan means for torture survivors and how you can stand with us against the inhumane cash-for-humans scheme.

What's the impact of the Rwanda plan on refugees? 

Campaigners, lawyers and human rights leaders have all agreed that this scheme is cruel, unlawful and unworkable.  

At Freedom from Torture, we know from our work with survivors of torture that the human cost is immeasurable.  

Countless number of refugees and torture survivors have spoken out on the Rwanda scheme and how it will create ‘hell’ for people sent there against their will. Survivors of torture we see in our therapy rooms every day have expressed their fear and worry even when receiving notice they might be placed on one of these flights. We have seen an increase in symptoms of PTSD, like flashbacks and nightmares – and even self-harm and thoughts of suicide.

It couldn’t be clearer. The Rwanda plan will not protect those who have survived the unimaginable. Instead, it will punish and retraumatise them

King, a former Freedom from Torture client and torture survivor, describes how the threat of being removed to Rwanda ‘has brought shock waves’ to her mind and body.

Below, you can watch one of our therapists describe the harm that the Rwanda plan is already causing to survivors of torture. (Note: if the video isn't loading, make sure you choose 'I Accept Cookies', by clicking on the icon in the bottom right hand side of the page).

Sepideh, Survivors Speak OUT Co-ordinator, explains that for so many people who are waiting for their claims to be processed (in some cases for decades), they are terrified that the plane ticket to Rwanda could come at any time.  She says, “They are living in limbo in the UK and haven’t been able to start rebuilding their lives yet. One phone call could spell disaster.” 

report from MSF found that the Rwanda plan could have ‘serious implications for the health, wellbeing and dignity of people seeking safety in the UK’. The report said that many of those expelled will likely have survived torture, sexual violence and trafficking; most will have had traumatising migration journeys and should therefore receive specialised care and support. 

The fact is that this policy will not achieve its stated aims of reducing the boat crossings. We know from our work that when refugees are fleeing something as abhorrent as torture, persecution or war, there is absolutely nothing that will stop them. Deterrence measures are ineffective, and the government’s own statistics show that the recent legislative changes have not reduced arrivals.

What is our Stop the Flights campaign? 

The UK government has looked to private airlines for its ‘cash-for-humans’ scheme. But with the support of thousands of people as part of our movement, we pressured multiple commercial airlines to rule themselves out of the scheme, including the one confirmed to have signed up to fly refugees to Rwanda in June 2022. 

Our award-winning campaign would not have been possible without action from the public. Caring and compassionate people across the UK made hundreds of calls and sent over 30,000 letters to airlines suspected of involvement in the UK government’s cruel Rwanda scheme.

Led by survivors of torture, the campaign pressured Privilege Style to rule themselves out of the scheme in October 2022 after our actions caused disruption in Mallorca, Amsterdam and across the UK. 

Freedom from Torture also played a key role in the legal challenge against the Rwanda scheme. We provided expertise to the Court of Appeal demonstrating that survivors of torture will struggle to disclose their harrowing experiences in a process that moves at breakneck speed – and with few safeguards to ensure they can challenge their removal. 

Two peope in Hi-Vis hold 'Crime scene' tape in front of a 'Crime scene' sign outside Parliament

What’s next with the Rwanda scheme? 

Like millions of people who want to see a fair and compassionate asylum system, we were disappointed to see the government pass the Safety of Rwanda Act in April 2024. 

In passing the Act, the government ignored the judgement of this country's highest court, which found that Rwanda is not a safe country. The government in the process has also broken international law as well as ignoring thousands of people’s calls for compassion and humanity. 

But we are also doing whatever it takes to stop the flights. 

After reports that the airline AirTanker is planned to be used by the Government to remove refugees and torture survivors to Rwanda, we tried to get in touch asking them to once again rule themselves out of the scheme, after they had done the same in 2022. 

Instead of responding to us, AirTanker took down key pages from their website and remained silent. So we turned up the volume – in less than two weeks, more than 70,000 emails were sent to the airline, telling them to rule themselves out.  

But we need to turn up the heat. That’s why we’re also telling Jet2 – one of AirTanker’s biggest customers – to urge AirTanker to stand on the right side of history. Will you email Jet2? 

Remember: no flights have taken off yet. We have stopped the flights before, and our people powered movement can do it again. It's up to all of us to keep fighting for the kinder and fairer UK that we know is possible. 


It's time to tell Jet2 to join us in taking a stand and urge AirTanker to stand on the right side of history.

Banner image credit: Pool / Getty Images