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UK Passes Bill to Deport Asylum Seekers to Rwanda

Following extensive debate, the UK Parliament has now sanctioned a bill empowering the government to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be reviewed by the East African nation. Despite facing resistance from lawmakers and activists challenging it on human rights grounds, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s efforts have encountered obstacles both within Parliament and the British courts.

Sunak’s administration has faced embarrassment due to the inability to implement the policy effectively, despite the British government’s allocation of millions of pounds to Rwanda for a program yet to yield results. The aim is to deter irregular migration to the UK, particularly by individuals arriving via small, perilous, and illegal boats facilitated by criminal networks departing from France.

The legislation, in essence, proposes sending certain individuals arriving in the UK to Rwanda for asylum claim assessment, with the provision that they remain in Rwanda if their claim is approved. However, uncertainties remain regarding the fate of those whose claims are rejected, as the bill stipulates Rwanda cannot deport them to any country other than the UK.

The absence of any deportations two years post-conception of the plan is seen as a significant setback by Sunak, who has emphasized curbing small boat arrivals as a top priority.

Last year, the UK Supreme Court deemed the policy illegal, citing substantial concerns about the risk of asylum seekers facing ill-treatment if returned to Rwanda—a practice known as ‘refoulement,’ contradicting international human rights principles. The Court highlighted Rwanda’s inadequate asylum laws, poor human rights record, and historical non-compliance with non-refoulement agreements as key reasons.

Furthermore, Rwanda has faced criticism from the UK government, including allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances, and torture. In response, the government introduced the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill earlier this year to address judicial concerns, affirming Rwanda as a safe country in UK law.

Home Secretary James Cleverly announced the imminent enactment of the Safety of Rwanda Bill, emphasizing its role in preventing misuse of human rights claims to obstruct deportations and reaffirming UK parliamentary sovereignty. However, the UK’s continued adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights means legal challenges before the European Court of Human Rights remain possible, despite the bill’s passage.

Efforts to amend the bill have led to prolonged delays, with the House of Commons and House of Lords engaging in legislative “ping pong.” Sunak’s majority in the House of Commons necessitates voting to override any amendments made by the House of Lords.

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