Roozbeh*, 34, is a civil engineer from Iran. He fled his country fearing for his life after the government found out he had converted from Islam to Christianity. He arrived in the UK in December 2022, has received a notice of intent to be sent to Rwanda and fears that he could be arrested and detained at any moment.

“When I crossed the border from Iran into Turkey I stepped into the unknown. I had never left my country before and I knew the journey was going to be very dangerous. I was put into lorry after lorry and did not know what countries I passed through.

“The smugglers spoke to us in English and said we had to do whatever they told us to do. I think they were speaking Turkish and Kurdish [to each other]. They were really aggressive.

“The journey to France took about 21 days but it was hard to know the difference between day and night in the lorries and it felt like 200 days.

“The smugglers told us to wade out to sea until it was up to our necks before we climbed into the dinghy so it was already full of water before we started the journey. No human being of sound mind would get into one of those dinghies unless they had no other choice. They didn’t tell us we were going to the UK, just to a “safe country”.

“We were rescued by a Border Force boat, given hats and gloves, something which meant the whole world to me because we were so cold, and after arriving in the UK we were processed, then I was sent to Liverpool.

“I knew nothing about Rwanda when I arrived in the UK. I had stopped listening to the news in Iran many years ago because it was all manipulated by the government. When I first heard the word Rwanda I didn’t even know it was a country. I thought it was another legal word like “asylum seeker” or “refugee”.

“It is not only asylum seekers who feel stressed about Rwanda. I volunteer for a few charities and the English people working there are really stressed too.

“Since I arrived in the UK I have felt very safe and have experienced a lot of love and kindness here. It is hard to reconcile that this country where I feel safe might send me to Rwanda. I am very worried that I will be arrested and forced to go there because I have not had any asylum interview yet and I have to go and report every two weeks. Friends have called me and said I should go and hide and that I can stay with them, but I want to do everything the right way in this country and follow the process.

“Everyone is so terrified of being sent to Rwanda, it feels like having death on your doorstep. We did some research and can see that Rwanda and Iran have good relations – so maybe Rwanda will send me back to my country.

“I think this country is a good place, but if they send us to Rwanda they will be treating us as less than humans, the same way my country treats people. Can you imagine that today I am in Liverpool and tomorrow I could find myself in Rwanda. I don’t want to be one of those people who loses hope. For me, hope is everything.

“But Rwanda is like a nightmare that doesn’t leave us alone. You don’t need to be in bed asleep to have nightmares about Rwanda.

“Rwanda will not act as a deterrent against Channel crossings. We are in the hands of the people smugglers because there is no other way for us to save our lives. If we are prepared to get into a dinghy to cross the Channel and risk our lives, how can the threat of Rwanda stop us?

“The government boat rescued us in the Channel. I want to ask the government: ‘Why did you not just leave us to die in the Channel if your plan was to send us to Rwanda? By sending us there you are just delaying that death.’”

Source » theguardian