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21 Feb, 2024 13:35

UN warns Britain against deporting migrants to Rwanda

A bill requiring courts to ignore evidence and declare the African state safe for refugees is unlawful, UN human-rights chief says
UN warns Britain against deporting migrants to Rwanda

The British government’s new draft legislation declaring Rwanda as a safe country in which to resettle undocumented asylum seekers from the UK violates principles of the rule of law, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has warned.

In a statement on Monday, Turk said the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which has caused division in the UK parliament, would limit the power of decision makers, including courts, to scrutinize deportation cases, risking a “serious blow to human rights.”

The proposed law was introduced in December after Britain signed a new treaty with Kigali, seeking to address the UK Supreme Court’s ruling that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s initial plan, to send certain migrants on a one-way flight to Rwanda, was unlawful. The court declared the East African nation unsafe for refugees, blocking flights to the country, regardless of Britain paying at least £240 million ($305 million) to Kigali under the controversial deal that was signed in April 2022.

The new draft legisaltion requires ministers to ignore European Court of Human Rights’ emergency orders to temporarily halt flights to Rwanda during the hearing of individuals’ appeals against their deportation. However, Conservative MPs have called for it to be amended to override laws that challenge the swift removal of illegal migrants crossing the English Channel.

However, Turk has insited that “governments cannot revoke their international human rights and asylum-related obligations by legislation.”

“It should be for the courts to decide whether the measures taken by the government since the Supreme Court’s ruling on risks in Rwanda are enough,” the UN human-rights chief said.

“You cannot legislate facts out of existence,” Turk stated.

Last week, a UK parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, tasked with reviewing the draft bill, published a report warning Sunak’s government not to deport undocumented migrants to Rwanda. The group declared London’s scheme unlawful, saying it “risks untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights internationally.” The House of Lords previously endorsed a motion urging parliament not to ratify it.

The Home Office has described the Rwanda plan as a bold and innovative initiative for stopping illegal migrant boats from crossing into Britain using the English Channel. Prime Minister Sunak has said his government will begin sending migrants to the African nation before the UK’s next election.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said last month that more than 30,000 asylum seekers are on bail and face expulsion from the UK and transfer to the landlocked country.