UN calls on UK to withdraw Rwanda Bill News
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UN calls on UK to withdraw Rwanda Bill

The UN Committee on Human Rights called on the UK on Thursday to withdraw the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill and certain provisions of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 due to human rights concerns. The Committee stated that it is “deeply concerned” that these laws risk potential discrimination against migrants and asylum seekers and breach UN Conventions on the treatment of refugees.

The Committee met for session between March 4 and 28, 2024, producing a report highlighting multiple human rights concerns within the UK’s migration legislation. The Committee heavily criticized the UK’s “Memorandum of understanding between the UK and Rwanda” and attempts to transport asylum seekers to such third countries. It urged the UK to withdraw or repeal the bill if it became law. It highlighted the UK’s commitment to Article 33 of a UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, in which they must uphold the principle of non-refoulment. Non-refoulment refers to the practice of not forcing migrants or asylum seekers to be sent to a country in which they are likely to be persecuted. The Committee urged the UK to uphold such a principle “in both law and practice.”

The Committee emphasized its concerns with the Illegal Migration Act 2023 due to its provisions “that discriminate against migrants and that seek to limit access to rights for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.” The Committee described the Illegal Migration Act as an “asylum ban,” as it denies asylum to anyone who arrives in the UK illegally if they have passed through a country where they did not face persecution. Article 31 of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees¬†prevents states from penalizing asylum seekers on account of their “illegal entry or presence.” The Committee again urged the UK to repeal these provisions and ensure their legislation complies with the Covenant and relevant international standards.

Other concerns expressed by the Committee include the impact of the Illegal Migration Act on victims of human trafficking, stating that “the removal of certain protections for potential victims of trafficking arriving in [the UK]” under this Act has made it more difficult to identify victims, which has impacted their access to justice. Furthermore, the Committee believes that this act “will likely result in victims being removed from [the UK] without fully considering their claim and providing them with the necessary support and protections.”

The Illegal Migration Act and Safety of Rwanda Bill form the UK government’s most recent, strict approach to migration, with a strong focus on “stop[ping] the boats.” Its approach has received widespread criticism. The UK introduced its most recent bill, the Safety of Rwanda Bill, in response to a Supreme Court ruling that stated sending asylum seekers to Rwanda would breach international human rights laws. The House of Lords completed its consideration of amendments on March 20, and the bill is set to be discussed in the House of Commons on April 15 before being approved for Royal Assent, after which it will become law.