LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A leading Catholic agency in Great Britain is calling on people to “stand in solidarity with refugees” after reports the government is planning on detaining asylum seekers ahead of implementation of a law to deport them to Rwanda.

Parliament passed the government’s Rwanda bill earlier this month, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says it is “a fundamental change in the global equation on migration.”

Plans to forcibly and permanently transfer people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda, without first examining their claim, were initially announced in April 2022.

Recently, the UK’s Home Office has begun contacting people refused asylum and offering them “voluntary departure” to Rwanda.

“Right now, people who came to the UK in search of sanctuary are living in fear of this reckless attack on human rights,” said Sophie Cartwright, the policy officer of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS UK).

“As a society we cannot stand by while our obligations towards refugees are abandoned, and people are subjected to the horrors of detention and deportation,” she said.

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says deportations will begin in July, and it is part of a pledge to stop people from crossing the English Channel in often deadly journeys on small boats.

The Home Office says more than 7,000 migrants have arrived in the UK across the Channel this year to date.

Sonya Sceats, chief executive of charity Freedom from Torture, told the BBC the new policy to deport asylum seekers “will further traumatize people who have fled from torture chambers seeking safety and a chance to rebuild their lives in the UK.”

“We know from our clinical services that even survivors of torture who are completely safe from harm tend to live in a semi-permanent state of hypervigilance to threats, because of their history of being rounded up, detained, and abused in authoritarian states. So news of this crackdown is sure to trigger mental health collapse in many men, women and children in the care of our therapists,” she said.

JRS UK is a leading advocate for refugees seeking asylum in Britain. As well as providing services to meet people’s immediate needs such as food and accommodation, the charity offers casework and legal support to help people navigate the asylum system.

“We urge anyone who is appalled by what is happening to raise their voice and to help JRS UK’s work supporting those who are put at risk by these inhumane policies. In detention centers, through our services, and through our advocacy we will continue to stand alongside people seeking safety in the UK,” Cartwright said.

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Meanwhile, Church leaders expressing “deep misgivings” over the Bill, issuing a statement saying “the precedent it sets at home and for other countries in how we respond to the most vulnerable.”

“We are disappointed that the kindness and support offered by churches and charities to the people at the heart of this debate – those fleeing war, persecution and violence trying to find a place of safety – has been unjustly maligned by some for political reasons,” the statement says.

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