MEDICAL JUSTICE, a charity which works to uphold the health and associated legal rights of people in immigration detention, has published a comprehensive analysis of people targeted for removal to Rwanda.

The report, Who’s Paying The Price?: The Human Cost Of The Rwanda Scheme details medical evidence of the harm inflicted on them. The charity says the Rwanda policy is damaging in general for anyone, and acutely so for vulnerable torture and trafficking survivors who are already paying a high human cost.

The UK Government has entered an agreement which will forcibly remove people who have come to the UK seeking safety to Rwanda, with no return to the UK. It has been widely condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, parliamentary committees, as well as the medical community. It is being judicially reviewed in the High Court, with hearings starting on Monday 5th September 2022, the day the new Prime Minister will be announced. Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have promised more Rwanda-style deals.

The first removal flight to Rwanda was halted, but Medical Justice says the health and wellbeing of those targeted has already been severely impacted.

Dr Rachel Bingham, Clinical Advisor for Medical Justice, says: “Our clinicians have described the severe impact of the threat of removal to Rwanda on mental health: Experiences of intense fear, anxiety about the future, profound loss of hope, and traumatic reminders of past experiences of powerlessness deprive people of the sense of safety required for careful assessment and recovery. These experiences would be harmful in general, but are made even more acute by their being experienced within immigration detention and by a population with a high rate of vulnerability.

“Our report shows extremely high rates of evidence of torture, trafficking and other vulnerabilities in this group, to whom the government plan to deny assessment or interview before they are forcibly removed. The policy knowingly places people in an extremely damaging situation and should be considered exceptionally harmful.

“As a doctor, what shocks me most is the total disregard for the need to assess the risks of subjecting individual people to this policy. “

Emma Ginn, Director of Medical Justice said: “Medical Justice calls for the immediate and urgent release from indefinite immigration detention of all those targeted with removal for Rwanda, and for the policy to be abandoned. To not do so, given the medical evidence, means the harm the government is inflicting is premeditated.”

Fifty one people in immigration detention targeted for removal to Rwanda have contacted Medical Justice. Detail on 36 of them is provided in the Who’s Paying The Price? report, including Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Syrian, Eritrean, Vietnamese, and Egyptian nationals. The report reveals the accelerated and unclear process they have been subjected to, plagued by procedural deficiencies, a lack of legal advice and a lack of translated documents.

The detainees include men, women, aged-disputed children or young people, people with mental health conditions, and people who have self-harmed and/or have suicidal ideation in detention. They have all come to the UK seeking safety, many to join family here. There is no specific screening process, and where vulnerabilities are identified, the Home Office justifies continued detention on the basis of potential removal to Rwanda.

Medical Justice says that the evidence in the report shows that the prospect of removal to Rwanda is in itself damaging, and is exacerbating detained people’s mental health conditions, causing them to experience fear, confusion, uncertainty about their safety, and a loss of hope. For some, it has increased their risk of self-harm and suicide. For some, it has reduced resilience to the psychological effects of trauma and may interfere with their ability to engage with treatment.

Medical Justice doctors have conducted clinical assessments of 17 people. Fourteen had evidence of torture histories and six have indicators of trafficking. Fifteen had a diagnosis or symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. One is likely to have a psychotic disorder and lack capacity to even instruct his solicitor. One requires urgent investigations to rule out recurrence of a previous brain tumour. Eleven people had suicidal thoughts in detention, including one who attempted suicide twice. Some were clinically considered to be at high risk of suicide if threatened with removal Rwanda.

Following each assessments the Medical Justice clinician shared their concerns, including about the risks of continued detention, with the immigration removal centre healthcare team.

* Read Who’s Paying The Price?: The Human Cost Of The Rwanda Scheme here.

* Source: Medical Justice