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The House of Lords must speak with one voice against the Rwanda plan

If my fellow Lords allow the Rwanda bill to pass unamended, it will be a stain on parliament’s conscience, says bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani – and will forever diminish our moral standing as a country

Monday 29 January 2024 14:17 GMT
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Last week, peers voted against the ratification of the UK’s new treaty with Rwanda, which may embolden them to block the Safety of Rwanda Bill’s second reading today
Last week, peers voted against the ratification of the UK’s new treaty with Rwanda, which may embolden them to block the Safety of Rwanda Bill’s second reading today (Parliament TV)

When legislation comes to the House of Lords, peers are tasked with revising and improving it by asking the question: “How can we make this bill better”? The Safety of Rwanda Bill, which will come before the Lords today for a second reading, has led many of us to ask a more fundamental question: “How can we make sure that we are better than this?”

The Rwanda bill is unprecedented in asking parliamentarians to substitute the judgment of our highest court with the government’s own assessment that Rwanda is safe for asylum seekers, even though this is contrary to the current facts on the ground. By legislating that every domestic decision maker must treat Rwanda as safe, the bill not only ignores the recent evidential assessment by our judiciary, but leaves some of the world’s most vulnerable people without any suspensive legal remedy against their removal from the UK.

Have we not lost touch with our humanity if we choose to contravene international law in this most extraordinary manner, for the purpose of transporting people, many of whom have been through traumatic and unspeakable experiences, thousands of miles away, without even hearing their asylum claims?

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