UK Passes Controversial Bill To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda After Two Years Of Challenges

Two Years After Challenges, UK Passes Controversial Bill To Send Asylum Seekers To Rwanda

The controversial bill allowing the UK to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for review has been passed by parliament.

In the Houses of Parliament and in the British courts, MPs and activists have tried to stop Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s legislation on human rights grounds.

Sunak’s failure to implement the strategy has embarrassed the British government, which has given millions of pounds to Rwanda for a scheme that has failed.

It aims to dissuade irregular migration into the UK, mainly on perilous small boats from France arranged by criminal groups.

The law could send some UK arrivals to Rwanda for refuge. Rwanda will host them if their claim is recognized. The bill states that Rwanda cannot transfer them to any country other than the UK if it is rejected, but what happens next is unknown.

The lack of deportations two years after the strategy was conceived has disappointed Sunak, who had prioritized halting tiny vessels.

Because there are significant grounds for assuming that asylum seekers would face a serious risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement to their country of origin if they were transported to Rwanda,” the UK Supreme Court ruled last year that the policy is illegal.

Asylum seekers and refugees are forced returned to dangerous or oppressive places, violating international human rights law.
The judges also held that Rwanda’s asylum system, human rights record, and previous non-refoulement violations made it unsafe and unreliable for the British government to evaluate asylum seekers’ claims.

Even in 2021, the UK government chastised Rwanda for “extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture.”

The government introduced the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill in January, overriding the judges’ objections and enshrining Rwanda’s safety in UK law.

Home Secretary James Cleverly claimed in a Monday X video that “the Safety of Rwanda Bill has passed in Parliament and it will become law within days.”

The act will prevent “abusing the law by using false human rights claims to block removals,” he said. It also shows that the UK Parliament is sovereign, allowing the government to reject European court interim blocking measures, he said.

Although the bill passed, the UK is still a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, therefore the government may face legal challenges in the European Court of Human Rights. Previous European court rulings prevented it from transporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Amendments have delayed the bill. In a practice known as “ping pong,” the House of Commons and House of Lords of the UK have been exchanging legislation for months. Sunak’s majority in the Commons must vote to reject any bill modifications from the House of Lords.

The bill’s passage may not benefit Sunak politically. Despite Sunak’s efforts to stop small boat crossings, the strategy would barely affect the UK’s net migration. Migration Observatory at Oxford reported 45,744 small boat arrivals in 2022. The same year, government estimates showed 745,000 net migration.

If the European Court blocks deportations after the law passes, Sunak may become embroiled in the UK exiting the ECHR debate. This topic has deepened Conservative Party divides.

After 300 personnel are moved to East Africa, the Rwanda policy might cost the British government £600m. Sunak faces criticism from both the left and right, who argue the strategy breaches international human rights law and is expensive and ineffectual.

The Labour Party, anticipated to win the next general election, has pledged to abolish the program.

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