UK plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda incompatible with human rights, parliamentary watchdog says


A parliamentary rights watchdog declared on Monday that the British government’s proposal to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda for a one-way trip is “fundamentally incompatible” with the country’s obligations under international human rights law, as the controversial bill was brought back for discussion in the House of Lords.

The unelected upper house of parliament is closely examining and attempting to amend a bill intended to overturn the decision of the U.K. Supreme Court that the Rwanda plan is unconstitutional. The East African nation is not a safe place for migrants, the court declared in November.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill declares the nation safe, increases the difficulty for migrants to contest deportation, and gives the British government the authority to disobey European Court of Human Rights injunctions intended to prevent removals.

In a report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights of Parliament, which is composed of members from both the government and the opposition, stated that the bill permits British officials to act in a way that is inconsistent with human rights standards and “openly invites the possibility of the U.K. breaching international law.”

The bill, according to committee chairwoman Joanna Cherry of the Scottish National Party, “risks untold damage to the U.K.’s reputation as a proponent of human rights.”

“This bill aims to eliminate essential protections against discrimination and violations of human rights, such as the basic right to go to court,” the representative stated. “At its core is hostility toward human rights, and no amount of changes can save it.”

The Rwanda plan is a “bold and innovative” response to a “major global challenge,” according to the Home Office.

In a statement, it declared, “Rwanda is unquestionably a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees.” “It accommodates over 135,000 asylum seekers and is prepared to relocate individuals and assist them in reconstructing their lives.”

The plan calls for processing asylum claims in Rwanda for those who arrive in the United Kingdom in small boats via the English Channel, where they would remain indefinitely. The strategy is essential to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” carrying undocumented immigrants into the United Kingdom. Deporting undocumented asylum seekers, according to Sunak, will discourage people from taking dangerous trips and destroy the people-smuggling gangs’ lucrative business model.

Based on a “major global challenge,” the Rwanda plan is a “bold and innovative” response, the Home Office said.

It said in a statement that “Rwanda is unquestionably a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees.” “It accommodates over 135,000 asylum seekers and is prepared to relocate individuals and assist them in reconstructing their lives.”

Those who arrive in the United Kingdom via the English Channel in small boats would have their asylum claims processed in Rwanda, where they would stay indefinitely. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” bringing illegal immigrants into the UK depends on this plan. Deporting undocumented asylum seekers, in Sunak’s opinion, will deter people from making risky travel arrangements and undermine the profitable people-smuggling networks.

Sunak’s goal of launching the first flight to Rwanda this spring may be thwarted by the bill’s numerous attempts to be amended and the drawn-out back and forth between the elected House of Commons and the Lords. In the end, however, the upper house is powerless to override the elected Commons and can only postpone and amend legislation.

On Monday, members of the Lords who are Conservative and opposition parties issued cautions regarding the bill.

The bill “threatens both the domestic rule of law – especially the separation of powers (between legislature and judiciary) – and the international rules-based order,” according to Shami Chakrabarti, a current Labour member of the Lords and former director of the human rights organization Liberty.

It is “quite extraordinary that the party of Margaret Thatcher should be introducing a bill of this kind,” according to Conservative Christopher Tugendhat.

He declared, “What we are being asked to do really represents the kind of behavior that the world associates not with an established democracy, not with the Mother of Parliaments, but with despots and autocracies.”

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