Home » UK could use Iraq in Rwanda-style refugee processing scheme

UK could use Iraq in Rwanda-style refugee processing scheme

The Conservative government seeks to reduce numbers of people arriving to the UK on small boats [file/GETTY]

The UK government considered sending asylum seekers to Iraq in a programme like its Rwanda-scheme despite its own foreign office advising against travel there.

Government documents seen by Sky News revealed that the government wanted to process asylum seekers who had arrived in the UK and was in correspondence with Iraqi officials.

The UK government currently advises its nationals against all travel to Iraq apart from the northern Kurdistan region.

According to the report, Iraqi officials were “open” to the proposal and progress had been made but Baghdad did not want a formal or public arrangement.

In April, following months of debate, the UK parliament passed a controversial bill which will see asylum seekers sent to Rwanda for processing.

The scheme has prompted alarm from charities and rights groups who have highlighted Rwanda’s poor human rights record and raised questions over whether the UK would be breaching its own obligations under international law.

People arriving to the UK unlawfully will be transferred to Rwanda where their asylum claims will be processed. If successful they would be granted refugee status to stay in the African country, not the UK.

Many of those arriving in the UK and seeking asylum are from Iraq and other war-torn countries in the region, like Syria and Afghanistan.

The UK currently has an agreement in which Iraqi citizens can be deported back to Federal Iraq or Iraqi Kurdistan if their asylum claim was rejected by British authorities.

Iraqis are among the top five nationalities which most frequently arrive in the UK in small boats crossing via the English Channel, according to data from the Migration Observatory.

A total of 17 Iraqis were sent to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah between 2020 and 2022, according to UK Home Office data.

British officials were also scouting returns arrangements with Eritrea and Ethiopia, the documents showed, in light of a large number of nationals from those two countries arriving to the UK via small boats.

In the first five months of this year, 8,278 people arrived in the UK on boats across the English Channel, more than the total for the same period in 2023 or 2022.

The Rwanda scheme has been a flagship policy of the governing Conservative Party which has said that it wants to deter people arriving in the UK across the English Channel and reduce immigration.

There are some 52,000 asylum seekers in the UK who could be potentially sent to Rwanda, according to the BBC, with the first deportations expected in the coming months.