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‘For us, Rwanda equals death’: an asylum seeker in England on the UK government’s deportation plan

‘Rishi Sunak’s family were migrants. I am surprised that he is leaving behind such shameful history during his tenure’

I came through Italy before I came to England, after a long journey through the Libyan desert and the danger of the Mediterranean Sea. I lived in Italy for a year and three months. I escaped from my dictator government in Eritrea, but I slept on the streets under a bridge in Milan with no job or chances of education. Also, I felt under threat from people associated with Eritrea, which is a former Italian colony.

I decided to come to England. I got in a plastic boat from Calais in France. People paid €1,300-€2,000 for a place in it. Always there is a risk. We prayed to God for safety.

I have been living in the UK since June 2023. After six months I started studying in language classes two days a week, though I am not allowed to move on to university. I hoped to get asylum and keep studying and start working. But now, when they announced the Rwanda plan, the government has created a problem in my brain. I have stayed locked in the house worrying alone.

The UK has decided to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. We already fled abusive militaries and corrupt governments in Africa. We want to seek asylum in the UK, but now they are paying the Rwandan government. The world does not know that for us, Rwanda equals death.


Rwanda is a dictatorship. For more than 20 years the president has been in power. They don’t care about us there, they care about business money. This is a fact.

There was already a deal that saw asylum seekers sent from Israel to Rwanda. Those sent there then fled bitterly. Many crossed the Sahara and Mediterranean Sea and are living in Europe. Some died on the way. We feel that the British government is effectively sentencing us to death by sending us to Rwanda.

We are in a bad situation now in the UK. I am afraid with this situation. The UK’s MPs are treating us badly for politics. Why is the UK government playing with poor asylum seekers and migrants to suit their own politics? For me, instead of going to Rwanda, my solution would be to kill myself here. All are the same. Die here, die also in Rwanda, die equally. You don’t know the type of life we passed in the Libyan desert and in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s a film for you. How many people already died because of a lack of water and food, sickness.

When someone asks you for asylum, he comes to your house because he is in trouble, not because he is satisfied to live apart from his beloved family

Many of my friends have escaped now to France and Ireland. I don’t know anything about Ireland or how people are travelling there. But refugee law requires you to help poor refugees who have no way out of death and torture. The people who went to Ireland went to save their lives. This Rwanda plan has caused them depression and brain problems. I urge the people and government of Ireland to understand what is happening to us and help us to have a good future.

People ask me “why did you leave your country?” It is the truth that your home is your home, but it can only be your home when there is law and a just government. We have endless national service (which the UN has called “slavery-like”). When we turn 18 the government takes us to the military – both female and male. We are separated from our families: if our mothers get sick, no one will help them. Because of this lack of freedom, we decided to go to a country with justice and government and seek asylum.

People will inevitably call us illegal because we don’t have legal passports. Refugees get passports after a country accepts your right to asylum following the interview process. In Eritrea, I could never get a passport from the government. Only those aged 50 and older were able to get them. From 18 to 50 the government collects us and sends us to unending military service.

Many of my friends received orders from the Home Office to sign papers at the police station. If we have appointments, should we go or refuse? Which one is better? The problem is that when you go to the police to sign papers sent by the Home Office, the police can lock you up ahead of deportation to Rwanda. How many problems have we gone through, from death and a lot of illness and imprisonment, to enter a country that is supposed to have law and order to be imprisoned and depressed again, and not even considered human?

Under God, I expect human rights activists and charities, the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the people of England, to stand by us and stand against this government decision.

When someone asks you for asylum, he comes to your house because he is in trouble, not because he is satisfied to live apart from his beloved family.

As we know, Rishi Sunak’s family were migrants. What I am surprised about is that he is trying to expel refugees and is leaving behind such shameful history during his tenure.

As told to Sally Hayden. “Alex” is a pseudonym. His real identity is known to The Irish Times. Alex’s journey began in 2014 and took him from Eritrea to Sudan, where he remained for three years, trying to get legal resettlement in Europe or North America. He spent four years in Libya before crossing the Mediterranean and travelled from Italy through France and to England in a small boat, where he arrived in June 2023