Home Office threatens to send heavily pregnant rape survivor to Rwanda

Eritrean woman, 28, in acute distress having spent most of her life in search of safety

A heavily pregnant rape survivor from Eritrea has been threatened with forced removal to Rwanda by the Home Office.

Human rights campaigners say it is the “most egregious” case they have come across so far in the government’s scheme to outsource the processing of UK asylum claims to the east African country.

Linked cases are currently going through the courts, challenging the lawfulness of forcibly removing asylum seekers who arrived recently in the UK in small boats and claimed asylum to Rwanda.

The 28-year-old woman, who is 37 weeks pregnant, is in a state of acute distress about the threatened removal. Doctors say scans show her baby has stopped growing and that she may need to be induced.

Home Office officials were aware that she was pregnant when she arrived in the UK on a small boat in July and organised a pregnancy scan for her. Officials have also moved her from one hotel to another after she became unwell with pregnancy-related nausea in the first hotel.

The woman, who is using the pseudonym Delina, said she was “really frightened” about what might happen to her and her baby. She had been living in an informal refugee camp in Calais for eight months before travelling to the UK in a dinghy and was struggling to survive there as a homeless young woman, even before the rape occurred.

She has spent decades in search of safety. She fled Eritrea at the age of three with her mother after her father was killed by the government. Her mother took her first to Sudan and later to Lebanon. She has no family members left. “I have not been able to sleep since I got the Rwanda notice,” she said.

A recent report from the charity Medical Justice, which analysed the cases of 36 people threatened with removal to Rwanda, found that 26 showed evidence of torture, 15 showed evidence of PTSD and 11 had suicidal thoughts.

In a separate case a female trafficking victim was also threatened with removal to Rwanda.

“I knew about the Rwanda plan before I came to the UK but I had to come here because I was not safe in France because I was homeless,” said Delina. “I was shocked when I received the letter. I never thought I would get this when I was pregnant.

“I had a dream that my child would have a life that I never had. I never got a chance to go school and I want them to go. I thought we would be safe in the UK and have a good, safe life. Now I have lost all hope.”

Clare Moseley, the founder of the refugee charity Care4Calais, which is providing support for Delina, said: “We have supported hundreds of refugees who have received Rwanda notices but this is the most egregious case yet. The government knows this woman is pregnant but have still seen fit to issue a letter threatening forced deportation to Rwanda. This case demonstrates the lack of compassion, cruelty and brutality at the heart of the government’s Rwanda policy. Targeting a pregnant woman is disgusting.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are urgently investigating this matter. However, very limited information has been provided to help us establish what has happened or identify the individual. But we are clear that every person in scope for removal to Rwanda will be individually assessed and no one will be transferred if it is unsafe for them.”


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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