British government plans to ignore part of UK's human rights law to revive its Rwanda asylum plan

The British government has published legislation that will let it ignore a part of the U.K.'s human rights laws in order to send asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda

Jill Lawless
Wednesday 06 December 2023 18:02 GMT
Rwanda Britain Treaty
Rwanda Britain Treaty

The British government on Wednesday published legislation that will let it ignore a part of the U.K.'s human rights law in order to send asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

The bill is part of government plans to overcome a block by the U.K. Supreme Court on its Rwanda policy. The court ruled last month that the plan was illegal because Rwanda is not a safe country for refugees.

Britain and Rwanda have since signed a treaty pledging to strengthen protection for migrants. The U.K. government says that will allow it to pass a law declaring Rwanda a safe destination.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the Safety of Rwanda Bill “will make absolutely clear in U.K. law that Rwanda is a safe country.” He urged lawmakers in Parliament to pass the legislation even though it may violate international human rights rules.

The government says the law will allow it to “disapply" sections of U.K. human rights law when it comes to Rwanda-related asylum claims.

The bill, due to be introduced in Parliament on Thursday, will likely face resistance from centrist lawmakers in the governing Conservative Party who oppose Britain breaching its human rights obligations.

It also may anger some on the party’s authoritarian wing, who want the U.K. to go further and leave the European rights convention completely. The only countries ever to quit the rights accord are Russia — which was expelled after invading Ukraine – and Belarus.

The Rwanda plan is central to the Conservative government’s self-imposed goal of stopping unauthorized asylum-seekers arriving on small boats across the English Channel.

Britain and Rwanda struck a deal in April 2022 for some migrants who cross the Channel to be sent to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed and, if successful, they would stay. The U.K. government argues that the deportations will discourage others from making the risky sea crossing and break the business model of people-smuggling gangs.

Critics say it is both unethical and unworkable to send migrants to a country 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) away, with no chance of ever settling in the U.K.

No one has yet been sent to Rwanda under the plan, which has faced multiple legal challenges. The new law, if passed, would make it harder to challenge the deportation orders in the courts.

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