Asylum Seekers Already in U.K. Say Rwanda Law Creates New Anxiety

For the tens of thousands of asylum seekers in Britain, a new law brings the possibility of deportation to central Africa closer. We asked how it was affecting them.

On a cold spring day last month, Mohsen, a 36-year-old from Iran, woke before dawn and was hurried by smugglers onto a rubber boat on the coast of France.

The water was calm and the sky clear, but he knew the risks of the journey he was about to make, he said. Since 2018, at least 72 people have drowned in the Channel while attempting crossings, according to the International Organization for Migration.

He fled Iran, he said, because police officers came to his home last year threatening to arrest him after he took part in anti-government protests.

Mohsen, who asked to be identified only by his first name over concerns that having his full name published could affect his asylum claim, said he was willing to risk drowning for the chance of a new life in Britain. And he boarded the boat even though he knew about the British government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to the central African country of Rwanda, which was first announced in 2022.

“What can I do? What other option did I have?” he said. “Honestly, I am worried, especially after Monday. Every day, the rules seem to change.”

On Monday, Britain’s Conservative government passed a contentious law intended to clear the way for deportation flights to Rwanda to begin in the summer despite an earlier ruling by Britain’s Supreme Court that deemed the country unsafe for refugees. For months, the House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill, with a former Conservative chancellor saying that ignoring the country’s highest court set “an extremely dangerous precedent.”

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