Global Human Rights Defence

LGBTQ+ asylum seekers rights threatened under the UK-Rwandan asylum partnership

LGBTQ+ asylum seekers rights threatened under the UK-Rwandan asylum partnership
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta, sign the partnership agreement in Kigali on Thursday. Photos by Moses Niyonzima/KT Press.

Author: Salomé Rizk

Department: LGBTQ+ Team

On 14th of April 2022, the government of the United Kingdom (UK) published a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Rwanda “for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement” (hereafter asylum partnership agreement)(UK Government, 2022A). The aim of this agreement is to transfer all asylum seekers illegally entering the UK territory, since the first of January 2022, to Rwanda. In exchange for its participation in the migration program Rwanda will reportedly receive 158$ million (Al Jazeera, 2022A). UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, claimed this policy will prevent the criminal smuggling trade, offer the opportunity for asylum seekers to find a “new and prosperous” life in Rwanda, and ultimately deter the illegal migration to the UK (Limb, 2022).

Yet many critics condemned this agreement. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) called it “cruelty itself” (Ahmed & McDonell, 2022) and denounced Rwanda for the reported poor human rights track record. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) condemned the partnership and called it  “egregious breach of international law” and “contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention” (Al Jazeera, 2022B). International lawyers accused the agreement of violating numerous international refugees and human rights principles. The aim of the agreement is to transfer the refugees who entered illegally, yet, Article 31(1) of 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to Status Refugees, to which the UK is state party, provides that states should not penalize refugees “on account of their illegal entry or presence” (Chidombwe, 2022; UNCHR convention).

Another principle that is under threat is the principle of non-refoulment, a cornerstone of international refugee law. Under this principle, which is recognized as jus cogens (i.e legally binding), a State shall not “expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (Article 33 (1) 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to Status Refugees). The UK itself raised concerns over human rights violations (Hinton, 2022), however, it has denied the concerns that the principle of non-refoulement be violated in the agreement (UK government, 2022B). Yet, evidence of human rights violations has been reported by many NGOs, which denounce the lack of freedom of expression, extrajudicial killings, lack of fair trials, and gender/sex-based discrimination among others (HRW, 2020, Amnesty International, 2021).

Furthermore, some asylum seekers are part of minority groups making them more vulnerable than others in Rwanda such as members of the LGBTQ+ community. In June 2021, Rwanda LGBTQ+ activists organized their first pride in Kigali, where Reuters collected a number of testimonies that denounce the lack of protection and help LGBTQ+ receive from the state. Many reportedly claim they face eviction, expulsion, and violent threats which sometimes force them to flee the country (Harrisberg, 2021). Additionally, the government of the UK acknowledged that LGBTQ+ members are under threat of persecution in Rwanda and the ill-treatment LGBTQ+ individual receive from the government, yet, UK officials believe there is not enough evidence that points toward systematic discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, meaning they are still included in the asylum agreement partnership (Syal & Siddique, 2022; UK Government, 2022B). It is important to note that members of the LGBTQ+ community are not the only vulnerable group, for example, evidence of discrimination against certain religious beliefs such as members of the Muslim community could face similar discrimination in Rwanda (Freedom House, 2022).

Despite the refusal from the High Court of London to stop the first transfer of asylum seekers to Rwanda planned for the 14th of June (Taylor, & Syal, 2022), some legal rebuttals were made against the partnership at the European level. Indeed, on the 14th of June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), ruled that an asylum seeker subject to the transfer scheme raised concerns about the partnership and added that the British judges did not properly look at the living conditions in Rwanda (Casciani, 2022). The case is set to be reviewed with a verdict toward the end of July (Casciani, 2022).

Although this allows more time for the asylum seekers to build a case in their defense, the UK vowed to continue scheduling transfer flights to Rwanda, despite being party to the ECHR (Associated Press, 2022).

Although the future of this asylum partnership is uncertain, it highlights the precarious safety of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly from minority groups, and the lack of human rights protections they receive not only in the UK but also in other countries such as Denmark is currently reviewing similar asylum partnership policies with Rwanda (Reuters, 2022).



Ahmed, Y. & McDonell, E. (14 April 2022), “UK Plan to Ship Asylum Seekers to Rwanda is Cruelty Itself”, Human Rights Watch, from

Al Jazeera (A), (19 May 2022), “UK to send asylum seekers to Rwanda under controversial new deal” retrieved from

Al Jazeera (B), (19 May 2022), “Rwanda to get first batch of asylum seekers from UK this May”, from,to%20the%20eastern%20African%20state.&text=Rwanda%20expects%20the%20first%20group,a%20government%20spokesperson%20has%20said.

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Casciani, D. (15 June 2022), “Rwanda asylum flight cancelled after legal action”, BBC, from

Chidombwe, N., (31 May 2022), “The Legality Of The Asylum Partnership Agreement Between The UK And Rwanda Under International Law”, Human Right Pulse, from,non%2Drefoulement%20under%20international%20law.

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Harrisberg, K., (29 June 2021), “’Brave and hopeful’ LGBT+ Rwandans prepare for their first Pride” from

Hinton, M. (15 April 2022), “Govt signed refugee deal months after condemning Rwanda for human rights abuses”, Leading Britain’s Conversation, from

Human Rights Watch (HRW), (9 July 2020), “Human Rights Watch Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda” from

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Reuters, (20 April 2022), “Denmark in talks with Rwanda on transfer of asylum-seekers”, from

Syal, R. & Siddique, H., (10 May 2022), “Home Office admits LGBTQI+ refugees could be persecuted if sent to Rwanda”, The Guardian, from

Taylor, D. & Syal, R. (10 June 2022), “UK deportation flight to Rwanda can go ahead, high court judge rules”, The Guardian, from

The Associated Press, (15 June 2022), “U.K. vows more Rwanda deportation flights after legal setback”, NPR, from

United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees” from



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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

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Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
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João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

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Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

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She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

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Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

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Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.