Is the Rwanda policy stopping people from crossing the English Channel?

With Neha Gohil Correspondent,
and Alpha Kamara Filmmaker

We visited northern France to see if the UK's Rwanda policy was actually stopping people from crossing the English Channel

“Have you heard of the Rwanda policy?”

That question received a mixed response from asylum seekers in northern France. 
Some had not heard of the policy at all.
Others were aware but it was not stopping them from making the deadly journey across the English Channel. 
The government’s plan to send people who come to the UK in small boats more than 4,000 miles away to Rwanda was met with a backlash when it was first announced in April.
But, as we stood in the middle of an asylum seeker camp in Dunkirk, on the French coast, it was clear the policy was having little impact on the people it could affect. 
Many had already faced dangerous journeys across sea, land and borders from countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. 
They wanted the UK to be their last stop and another step to creating a new life away from the terror, violence and danger they faced. 

Asylum seekers react to the Rwanda policy

The asylum seekers in France

Christopher*, an asylum seeker who fled South Sudan during the country’s civil war, described how he heard about the Rwanda policy. 
“I know this thing’s happening because I heard this before I [was] coming.
“When I [was] still in Libya, I heard that they need to deport people back [to] Rwanda.”
The asylum seeker fled South Sudan to Libya where he was put in jail and beaten before escaping to Europe.
Despite hopes of reaching the UK, Christopher said he is not sure when or how he will do so.
“I want to go to the UK, of course,” he said.  
“Maybe a boat? You need money.”

People attempt to cross the English Channel Credit: AP

Abdul*, a 25-year-old asylum seeker who fled from the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been living in France for two weeks. 
He said: “I heard about [the Rwanda policy] but I think there is no policy for this and they will not apply this.
“If you are in danger… we have to come here and find a way for ourselves. Everybody wants a standard life, like other people. Everybody has rights.”
When we met, Abdul was living in a tent in Calais on the side of a motorway - around 27 miles from Dunkirk.
He was waiting for a loan to pay a people smuggler for a space on a boat. 
“When I reached France, three days after I made this plan.
“I don’t know when but I will go there. I have [a] plan to go there but I don’t know when because I didn’t [pay] anyone, I didn’t find anyone to take me in [a] boat.”

What’s the background?

More than 35,000 people have crossed the English Channel in a small boat this year - the highest number since records began.  
The UK government says the Rwanda policy will prevent people from coming to the UK through, what it describes as, "illegal and dangerous” methods like on small boats and lorries. 
A charity that works with refugees, Care4Calais, is trying to make asylum seekers aware of the policy.
Their volunteers have been handing out leaflets with information on what could happen to the asylum seekers once they reach the UK. 
The charity is even telling displaced people to write the phone number of a lawyer on their arm so they can access legal support. 

Lucy Halliday, Operations Coordinator at Care4Calais

What happens now?

The government is currently facing legal action against the policy which has meant no one has been sent to Rwanda yet. 
The first flight, which was due to take asylum seekers to Rwanda, was stopped at the last minute due to legal challenges in June. 
We have a YouTube documentary on the asylum seekers in northern France and their journey for a better life in the UK.
You can watch the video here.