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LONDON: A Syrian asylum-seeker in the UK set to be deported to Rwanda has said he will kill himself if sent to the East African country.

The man, identified as Khaled, is being held at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre with a number of other people due to be sent to Rwanda.

He told The Guardian: “Everyone is so stressed in here because of Rwanda. We can’t eat and we can’t sleep. I was displaced in Syria for nine years and was imprisoned there and I was also detained and tortured in Libya.

“Being in detention is very triggering for me. What matters to asylum-seekers is to be safe. I will not be safe in Rwanda. If they manage to send me there, I will kill myself on arrival in that country.”

Khaled has been in the UK since 2022, and discovered he could be sent to Kigali for the first time in February 2023. He was detained with a view to removal last week.

“They arrested me and put me in handcuffs in a police cell. The same thing happened to two other people who were reporting — Iraqi Kurds. After we were taken out of the cell we were handcuffed again and taken in a van to the detention centre,” he said. 

“I have been trying to see a doctor in the detention centre because of an infection in my leg I need antibiotics for but so far I haven’t managed to get an appointment.”

Another asylum-seeker who did not give his name, and who arrived in the UK from Sudan in 2022, told The Guardian that he had traveled via the Mediterranean and the boat he had been on almost sank.

“I would have been happy to claim asylum in Italy but Italian officials did not fingerprint me and told me to move on to France. There I was told it would be four years before they could consider my asylum claim so I waited in the jungle in Calais to cross to the UK. Crossing the Channel in an overcrowded boat was even more terrifying than crossing the Mediterranean,” he said.

“When I heard about the government’s plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda at the beginning of 2023 I was very frightened.

“I escaped from an African country because it was not safe and I am very scared to be deported to another African country because I know it will not be safe for me.

“I was arrested last week when I went to report in Newcastle. They didn’t mention Rwanda until I reached the detention centre and at first just said ‘We are deporting you to a safe third country.’”

The two men told The Guardian that they were struggling to contact legal representatives while in detention, with a seven-day deadline imposed by the Home Office for those wishing to appeal the decision to send them to Rwanda.

The charity Care4Calais has published data suggesting that of the more than 100 people detained to be sent to Rwanda, most come from war zones.

The charity’s head of legal access, Hannah Harwood, said: “The people detained have not had their asylum claims processed, and it’s clear from the first cohort we are in contact with that if their claims were processed they would probably be granted refugee status in the UK. It reaffirms how shameful the Rwanda plan is and why it must be stopped.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the welfare of people in our care extremely seriously. There are robust safeguarding measures in place to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and has the support they need.

“All detained individuals have access to a mobile phone, internet and landline telephones so they can keep in contact with friends, family and other support.”

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