UK Parliament approves bill declaring Rwanda a ‘safe country,’ sidestepping Supreme Court judgment News
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UK Parliament approves bill declaring Rwanda a ‘safe country,’ sidestepping Supreme Court judgment

The UK’s Parliament on Tuesday approved the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which would declare Rwanda a “safe country” in order to send certain asylum seekers there while they await their applications to be assessed.

The bill would enable the deportation of irregular migrants under the UK-Rwanda international treaty on asylum partnership. The treaty, signed in December 2023, allows for the creation of mechanisms for asylum seekers to claim protection in Rwanda.

This decision enables the government to push forward this plan despite it being declared illegal by the UK Supreme Court. The court ruled in November 2023, that Rwanda could not be considered a safe country. In their judgment, the justices considered the high chances of asylum seekers being sent back to dangerous situations from Rwanda. Under the international principle of non-refoulment, asylum seekers cannot be returned to their country where they might face substantial risks. Despite this, the bill declaring Rwanda as a “safe country” would sidestep the Supreme Court’s decision and ensure compliance with domestic law. This would permit the government to follow its initial plans and commence the deportation process.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a press statement on Monday, “The truth is we need innovative solutions to address what is a global migration crisis…to disrupt the business model of people smuggling gangs and save lives.” The plan with this bill is to disincentivize irregular migration and limit the number of incidents related to English channel crossings.

The approval of this bill has raised concerns within the international community. For instance, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, are calling for the UK to reconsider its plans. UN officials have labelled the approval of this bill as harmful to human rights and refugee protection. Moreover, Türk argues the bill hinders the rule of law, given the fact that the individual situation of migrants will not be assessed. 

The Safety of Rwanda Bill is expected to be given royal assent in a few days, and a group of migrants has already been identified for the first flights to Rwanda.