UK Parliamentary report says Rwanda plan violates human rights News
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UK Parliamentary report says Rwanda plan violates human rights

A UK Parliamentary report released on Monday about the country’s Safety of Rwanda Bill found the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda to be “fundamentally incompatible” with human rights.  The report iterates that the UK’s plan to send unlawful migrants violates the “non-refoulement” principle that the UK is bound by in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Refoulement would entail an asylum seeker to be returned to the same country they are seeking safety from.

The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) was implemented in April of 2022, detailing a 5-year partnership with Rwanda.  The partnership includes sending UK asylum seekers to Rwanda to be processed and if successful, to settle in Rwanda. This plan was implemented by the Conservative Party Prime Minister Rishi Sunuk, in an attempt to “stop the boats” due to the influx of irregular migrants from the English Channel.

It is estimated to cost the UK 63,000 pounds to have asylum seekers processed in Rwanda rather than have them stay in the UK.  After legal challenges were brought by asylum seekers over safety concerns in Rwanda, the UK Supreme Court ruled the plan breached the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998, which imposes obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, in November 2023.

In response, the UK’s House of Commons passed the Safety of Rwanda Bill in January, which would override the Supreme Court and declare Rwanda a safe country, which would not be judicially reviewable.

The parliamentary report included a letter to Homeland Security by the Joint Committee on Human Rights that summarized the main concern about the UK’s Rwanda plan:

[T]he MEDP could be seen as an outsourcing of the UK’s own obligations under the Refugee Convention to another country … removing asylum seekers to another state where they face a real risk of human rights abuses, or of being sent on to a dangerous third country as a result of an inadequate asylum system, is inconsistent with the UK’s human rights obligations.

The report considered the Government’s argument that Rwanda is a safe state, but ultimately concluded that after hearing from “witnesses and bodies including the UNHCR that Rwanda remains unsafe, or at least there is not enough evidence available at this point to be sure of its safety.”  The report went on to defer to the Supreme Court case that previously found the state of Rwanda to be unsafe.

The overwhelming majority of the evidence we received supported the view that by denying access to a court to challenge the safety of Rwanda the Bill is not compatible with the UK’s international obligations, most obviously Article 13 ECHR- the right to effective remedy.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill is under review in the House of Lords, which may seek to make amendments to it before it passes and the first asylum seekers can be sent to Rwanda to be processed.