Some asylum seekers in the UK have reportedly gone into hiding to prevent their planned repatriation.
Aid agencies say several asylum seekers in Britain are hiding because of fears they will be sent to Rwanda.
Under a deal signed last month, people judged to have entered the country illegally face being flown to Rwanda for resettlement.
But the Red Cross and the Refugee Council say the threat of removal has prompted some of those seeking asylum to self-harm with one attempting suicide.
The charities have criticised the British government’s plans as a breach of the duty of care.
The Home Office in London has given the assurance that it will take every step to prevent self-harm or suicide.
It says it hopes its policy will undermine the business model of people traffickers.
Under the new Asylum Partnership Arrangement, people arriving in the UK irregularly or who arrived irregularly since January 1, 2022 may be sent to Rwanda on a one-way ticket to have their asylum claim processed and, if recognized as refugees, to be granted refugee status there.
The UK is arguing that offshoring asylum seekers to Rwanda complies with its international legal obligations.
But critics say offshore processing is not only cruel and ineffective, but also very likely to be unlawful as it creates a two-tiered refugee system that discriminates against one group based on their mode of arrival, despite refugee status being grounded solely on the threat of persecution or serious harm and international standards recognizing that asylum seekers are often compelled to cross borders irregularly to seek protection.
They also flagged the severe abuses resulting from offshore processing.
In 2018, Rwandan security forces shot dead at least 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo when they protested a cut to food rations.
Authorities then arrested and prosecuted over 60 of them on charges including rebellion and “spreading false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state.”
Rwanda has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents.
The UK directly raised its concerns about respect for human rights with Rwanda, and grants asylum to Rwandans who have fled the country, including four just last year.