On Wednesday, December 6th, the United Kingdom’s government published an emergency bill, igniting a political storm and leading to the resignation of the immigration minister. This bill, known as the “Safety of Rwanda Bill,” is designed to facilitate the controversial deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, a plan that has been mired in legal and ethical debates.
The bill’s publication follows a November 15 ruling by the UK Supreme Court, which deemed the government’s proposed scheme to send thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda unlawful. The court highlighted concerns about potential human rights abuses in Rwanda and the risk of refoulement, which is the return of refugees to countries where they could face harm or persecution. In response, the new legislation aims to declare Rwanda a safe country for asylum seekers, bypassing some sections of the Human Rights Act and allowing the government to ignore injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights.
The plan, central to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s immigration policy, has been a subject of intense debate within the UK. The resignation of Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, citing “strong disagreements” with the government’s direction on immigration, underscores the internal conflicts within the ruling Conservative party. Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman expressed skepticism about the bill’s effectiveness in stopping migration, predicting political repercussions for Sunak in the next general election.
The government’s stance is that the bill and the deportation plan will deter illegal and dangerous methods of entering the UK, such as crossing the English Channel in small boats. However, critics, including human rights organizations and some legal experts, argue that the policy breaches international law obligations and raises serious ethical concerns.
The new migration treaty with Rwanda, signed by Home Secretary James Cleverly, includes provisions to ensure the safety and fair treatment of asylum seekers sent there. This includes the establishment of an independent monitoring committee and the involvement of British and Commonwealth judges in a new appeals process. The UK has also committed to covering the accommodation and living expenses of the individuals relocated to Rwanda for up to five years.
Despite these assurances, the plan remains contentious. The UK Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling against the scheme, citing Rwanda’s human rights record and past treatment of refugees, adds to the complexity of the issue. The Rwandan government, however, has rejected these judgments, affirming its commitment to humanitarian responsibilities.