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UK parliamentary report says Rwanda legislation ‘incompatible’ with human rights obligations

A damning report by MPs states that controversial legislation to deport asylum seekers to the central African state could breach international law
Protesters march in London to demonstrate against the UK government's intention to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, 12 June 2022 (AFP)

A parliamentary report has revealed that the UK government’s controversial Rwanda legislation is “incompatible” with its human rights obligations and could be breaching international law. 

MPs from a cross-party committee on human rights critically analysed the Rwanda bill and questioned whether the policy is safe and compliant with national and international law. 

The bill, which is progressing through parliament, states that Rwanda is a safe place to deport people to and that UK asylum seekers could be forcibly relocated there. 

The report is one of many raising concerns over the bill, which reached its committee stage in the House of Lords on Monday, where it will be scrutinised by peers in Britain's upper house of parliament.

According to the report, the legislation erodes protections laid down by the Human Rights Act and violates parts of the European convention on human rights. It also falls short of the UK’s commitment to abide by international treaties. 

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If the legislation goes through, it could put the UK’s reputation for human rights “in jeopardy”, the report adds. 

“The bill’s near total exclusion of judicial scrutiny seeks to undermine the constitutional role of the domestic courts in holding the executive to account,” it states. 

The report was based on evidence from legal experts, academics and NGOs, the majority of whom said that it was not compatible with human rights laws. 

Joanna Cherry, a Scottish National Party MP who chaired the committee, said that the bill was “designed to remove vital safeguards against persecution and human rights abuses, including the fundamental right to access a court. Hostility to human rights is at its heart and no amendments can salvage it.”

She added that “by taking this approach, the bill risks untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights internationally.”

Controversial legislation 

According to The Guardian, a Home Office spokesperson responded to the report by stating that they are “committed to tackling this major global challenge with bold and innovative solutions, and the Rwanda scheme is doing just that”.

“Rwanda is clearly a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees. It hosts more than 135,000 asylum seekers and stands ready to relocate people and help them rebuild their lives,” they added.

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In November, the UK’s highest court upheld an earlier judgement by the Court of Appeal, which had deemed the policy illegal.

“The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the Home Secretary’s appeal, and upholds the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the Rwanda policy is unlawful,” the court said in a summary of the case published alongside the judgement.

“This is because there are substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers would face a real risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement to their country of origin if they were removed to Rwanda.”

Despite the court rulings, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has told MPs that the principle of sending asylum seekers to a safe third country is lawful and that the government was working on a new treaty with Rwanda.

Sunak has also told news outlets that his government would pass emergency legislation declaring Rwanda safe.

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