UK’s Rwanda bill deemed incompatible with human rights obligations

A parliamentary report criticizes the UK government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, citing human rights concerns and potential breaches of international law.

A parliamentary report from the UK’s Joint Committee on Human Rights criticizes the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, stating it contradicts the country’s human rights obligations and may infringe upon international law. Lawmakers expressed concerns over the legislation’s lack of compatibility with the UK’s global commitments, highlighting potential violations. The report, spanning 52 pages, emphasizes the serious implications of the proposed deportation scheme, underscoring the need for adherence to legal and ethical standards in immigration policies.

The contentious legislation aims to tackle the UK Supreme Court’s concerns after it deemed the government’s initial proposal to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda illegal. The bill mandates judges to view Rwanda as a safe destination and grants ministers authority to overlook certain provisions of the Human Rights Act.

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According to the report, the government’s legislation undermines the safeguards outlined in the UK’s Human Rights Act, breaches sections of the European Convention on Human Rights, and inadequately addresses the nation’s obligation to adhere to international treaties, such as the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

The report cautions that the government’s actions risk damaging the UK’s reputation for upholding rights protections and diminishing the authority of British courts by compelling them to recognize Rwanda as safe, regardless of their assessment. It criticizes the bill’s significant restriction on judicial oversight, stating it undermines the constitutional role of domestic courts in holding the executive accountable. Lawmaker Joanna Cherry, the committee chairperson, argues that the government’s bill aims to eliminate crucial safeguards against persecution and human rights violations, including the fundamental right to access justice.

The Conservative government has been placing growing importance on a strategy to address “irregular immigration” to the UK, particularly concerning small boats crossing the English Channel. Various opposition parties and international organizations, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, have voiced concerns and objections to the proposed legislation aimed at deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The proposal to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda had been a highly contentious aspect of the government’s migration policy, triggering widespread international criticism and large-scale protests throughout the UK. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak identified addressing small boat crossings by irregular migrants across the English Channel as one of his government’s top five priorities in January last year, citing the arrival of over 45,000 migrants via this route in 2022.