Humanists UK celebrates the end of the Rwanda deportation scheme

8 July, 2024

Photo credit: ©Number 10/Kirsty O’Connor (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Flickr

The Government announced this weekend that it will drop the previous Conservative Government’s policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. Humanists UK celebrates this move as a victory for human rights

The Rwanda scheme, introduced last year, sought to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. Humanists UK and others argued that the plan violated international human rights standards and risked the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals seeking refuge in the UK. Rwanda’s blasphemy laws raise significant human rights concerns for the non-religious and religious minorities. The Government wrote into the legislation that international human rights law should be discarded in order for the scheme to operate.

Instead the Government has announced a new Border Security Command to tackle people smuggling networks.

Humanists UK provides support for asylum claimants facing a genuine risk of being persecuted due to being non-religious. It has previously developed training with the Home Office and trained its asylum assessors in how to deal with non-religious asylum claims. With new assessors expected to be recruited, it hopes to see that training revived. It has written to the new Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper MP, offering to support this work.

When the scheme was being proposed, Labour peer and Humanists UK patron Alf Dubs told us:

‘Humanists believe that everyone should have the right to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, including through enjoyment of freedom of thought and expression. Sadly, for many people, that is not possible in their home countries, and so they have to seek that life elsewhere. These are people who need our compassion and support.

‘Refugees have contributed so much to the life and character of the UK, and to see them be instead sent to suffer more elsewhere is a travesty. Being a refugee is already one of the hardest things imaginable. We should be doing what we can to support them, not making things even worse.’

Now Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘We are elated to see the end of the Rwanda scheme. This is a triumph for human dignity, compassion, and justice. No country as repressive as Rwanda can be considered safe. And no country should farm out its responsibilities to genuine asylum claimants to a third country.

‘We look forward to working with the Government and other partners to extend human rights protections to those in need.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 0203 675 0959.

Read more about our work on the Rwanda scheme.

Read more about our work on freedom of religion and belief.

Read more about our work on repealing blasphemy laws.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.