Teen who fled to UK to save his life ‘will be killed’ if deported to Rwanda


Eritrean refugee, now 29, tells of fears he will be sent to Rwanda a second time under Britain’s deportation scheme, years after he says Israel sent him there ‘to get rid of us’.

An asylum seeker in France
Kidane paid smugglers to help him travel to Britain from Calais by dinghy

Kidane was 18 when he fled his native country of Eritrea to seek asylum in Israel. But in a gruesome plot that experts say inspired the UK’s deportation plan, he was flown to Rwanda with promises of a new life.

Kidane – not his real name – crossed through Africa and Europe to get here but could now be sent back to Rwanda.

At his asylum center in Cardiff, Kidane, 29, said: “Being deported to Rwanda would be a huge threat to my life. I would do the whole trip all over again and I might not survive it. We were treated like cattle, not people. Britain wants to get rid of all refugees and asylum seekers.”

Kidane is one of more than 60,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees who have fled dictatorship and war in their home countries to start a new life in Israel.

In 2016, after months in a desert detention camp, he was told he would be sent back to Eritrea or imprisoned indefinitely if he did not go to Rwanda. He was flown via Turkey to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, with a $3,500 severance grant.

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Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has condemned the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda



Israeli officials said he could seek asylum in Rwanda, where he could get a job and be protected.

He says: “When we arrived in Kigali, we were stripped of our permits and visas before being taken to a hotel surrounded by security forces.

“We stayed there for three weeks not knowing what was happening when immigration officials arrived to take us across the border into Uganda. We had to pay them $150 for the ride and another $150 for the ride to Kampala.

“The Israeli government knew what they were doing and used that to get rid of us – and that’s what the British government is doing.”

Accommodation in Kigali, Rwanda, which is expected to receive migrants from the UK



From Uganda, Kidane fled to South Sudan, where militiamen attacked his convoy and killed four of his friends. He was then held in a South Sudanese prison, where he narrowly escaped being shot as civil war raged around him.

Kidane decided to work his way out through bribery after seeing those who could not pay being killed, beaten and raped. From Libya he went to Italy by boat, spent four years in Germany and then paid smugglers to take him in a rubber dinghy from Calais to the UK to try to reach his brother – his only family in Europe.

Kidane said our Rwanda policy will not deter migrants like him “who are so full of hopelessness”.

Tel Aviv University professor Galia Sabar, who worked with Eritrean refugees like Kidane, called it “cruel, dangerous and genuinely racist”. “It’s based on ignorance,” she says. “You can’t justify that. This policy is like sending this man to his death. I see no difference between Israel’s policy and that of the UK.”

A view of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda which is expected to take in asylum seekers from the UK



Israel halted its program after sending 4,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Rwanda and Uganda between 2013 and 2018. Martin Plaut of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies said: “The way Israeli refugees have been treated by Rwanda shows that it is a totally inappropriate place to send refugees.

“The authorities just traffic people across the border. The UK’s plan will mean they will have to make the whole journey all over again, through smugglers, human trafficking, imprisonment and possibly a death sentence. It’s a ruthless vicious cycle.”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The disturbing stories show why Israel has abandoned this policy. We have said from the start that the Rwanda deal is unworkable, unethical and outrageously expensive. This is further evidence why the government should instead focus on stopping the criminal gangs operating in the English Channel.”

The Home Office said: “Rwanda is a fundamentally safe country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers. A thorough assessment will be carried out to ensure that no one is transferred there unless it is safe to do so.”

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