UK government publishes emergency legislation to declare Rwanda a safe country for asylum seekers News
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UK government publishes emergency legislation to declare Rwanda a safe country for asylum seekers

JURIST UK Senior Editor James Joseph | King’s College London, GB also contributed to this report.

The UK government published emergency legislation Wednesday that would declare Rwanda a safe country for asylum seekers and push through their controversial deportation policy. Shortly after the legislation’s release, UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick resigned stating that the bill did not provide robust assurance that the Rwanda policy would be shielded from legal challenge.

The bill, known as the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, directs all “decision-makers,” including courts, to treat Rwanda as a safe country. It was introduced just one day after Home Secretary James Cleverly signed a treaty with Rwanda allowing planes with deportees to take leave for the country.

The government has been trying to implement the Rwanda scheme since 2022, which would see “illegal” asylum seekers deported to Rwanda to have their asylum claims assessed in the African nation. Last month, the Supreme Court blocked the plan, ruling that it was unlawful and that Rwanda was not a safe country.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held a press conference Thursday morning to proactively address the Rwanda plan and the emergency legislation following the resignation of Jenrick. He insisted that the new bill would block “every single reason that has ever been used to prevent flights.” He repeated his earlier assertion that he would not allow the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to stop the flights to Rwanda.

However, the bill has come under fierce criticism for disapplying sections 2 (interpretation of Convention rights), 3 (interpretation of legislation) and 6 to 9 (acts of public authorities) of the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998. It would also override “any other provision or rule of domestic law (including any common law)” and “any interpretation of international law by the court or tribunal” as applied to the Rwanda policy.

The Rwandan government has since threatened to pull out of the treaty signed earlier this week if the UK government did not adhere to international law. Vincent Biruta, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, stated that “without lawful behaviour by the UK, Rwanda would not be able to continue with the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.”

The first vote on the new legislation, which Sunak called the “UK’s toughest immigration law,” will take place on December 12 in Parliament.