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MSF reaction to UK government's Rwanda forced deportation plan

17 May 22

MSF reaction to UK government's Rwanda forced deportation plan

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continues to be disgusted, disheartened and dismayed by the punitive and malicious determination with which this government is proceeding with the decision to forcibly remove people seeking asylum to Rwanda.

Despite numerous legal challenges, warnings about the horrific impact this decision will have on the men, women and children affected, and the obvious moral reprehensibility of this abuse of power, the government has now issued letters to 50 people notifying them that they will be sent to Rwanda. 

This government says it is sending people permanently to Rwanda to stop others from making dangerous journeys in small boats and to prevent more lives from being lost at sea. But their decisions to close safe migration routes to the UK is what forces men, women and children into boats in the first place.

Forcibly removing people to Rwanda is incredibly dangerous. MSF knows from its own operational research that when governments persecute vulnerable people in this cruel way, depriving them of their families, loved ones and support networks, with no freedom of choice, freedom of movement, or hope, it destroys lives. 

MSF experience on Nauru island

In 11 months between 2017 - 2018 we conducted 1,526 mental health sessions for refugees and asylum seekers who had been forcibly removed from Australia to indefinite detention centres on Nauru island.

Data from this project exposes some of the worst mental health suffering we have encountered in our 50 years of existence.

Of the people we treated, 60 percent had suicidal thoughts, while 30 percent had attempted suicide. Children as young as nine were found to have suicidal thoughts and to have committed acts of self-harm or attempted suicide.

One-quarter had to be medically evacuated to Australia, mostly for psychiatric reasons due to years of distress trapped on Nauru.

Alarmingly, six percent of our patients – mainly children – were diagnosed with ‘resignation syndrome’, a rare psychiatric condition where patients enter a comatose state and require medical care to keep them alive.

Mental health collapse

This horrifying mental health collapse was directly linked to Australia‘s offshore detention policy and the abuse it unleashed. 

So long as the British government continues to play political games with the lives of those seeking our help and protection, we will continue fighting this abhorrent policy and standing with our fellow human beings.

They are worthy of thought, care, consideration and respect, and deserve to be treated with humanity, not cruelty and contempt. 

At MSF's out-patient department in Batil refugee camp Gandhi Pant, a nurse, escorts a patient with a possible appendicitis to a waiting ambulance. 

Batil is one of three camps in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State sheltering at least 113,000 refugees who have crossed the border from Blue Nile state to escape fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-North armed group. Refugees arrive at the camp with harrowing stories of being bombed out of their homes, or having their villages burned. The camps into which they have poured are on a vast floodplain, leaving many tents flooded and refugees vulnerable to disease. Mortality rates in Batil camp are at emergency levels, malnutrition rates are more than five times above emergency thresholds, and diarrhea and malarial cases are rising.

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