UK’s asylum treaty with Rwanda: effective solution or human rights concern?

British Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta sign a new treaty, in Kigali, Rwanda, December 5, 2023. Ben Birchall/Pool via REUTERS

James Cleverly, the UK’s Home Secretary, recently visited Rwanda to finalize discussions on an asylum treaty. This decision follows a ruling by the UK Supreme Court that declared the deportation scheme unlawful, sparking concerns about human rights violations. The deportation plan, which is an aspect of the UK’s migration control strategy has faced criticism from the global community for its intention to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The Arguments

Those in favour of this initiative argue that securing asylum agreements with nations is crucial for managing and securing UK borders. The government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, faces pressure to reduce migration numbers after reaching a record high of 745,000 last year. The plan specifically targets asylum seekers who arrive via boats in an effort to control and minimize the flow of migrants crossing the English Channel from Europe.

To overcome challenges associated with these efforts, the UK government plans to classify Rwanda as a “safe country.” This designation aims to preempt obstacles relating to deportation flights. In addition to this measure the UK has pledged support for Rwanda by providing an initial payment of £140 million ($180 million) and committing to further funds in future. The financial arrangement aims to cover the expenses related to housing and taking care of individuals who have been deported.

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has deemed the deportation programme illegal due to concerns about errors in assessing refugee claims and the risk of persecution upon return. The court specifically highlighted violations of commitments including the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Refugee Convention, and the Convention against Torture.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has set an objective of “Stop the boats” as part of efforts to manage migration. The controversy surrounding the asylum plan involving Rwanda plays a key role in achieving this goal.

The Facts

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, the UK government is actively renegotiating its agreement with Rwanda. The focus is on incorporating a treaty that safeguards the rights of asylum seekers sent to Rwanda which would address the Court’s major concerns.

To avoid challenges, the UK government intends to designate Rwanda as a “safe country”, indicating that it is suitable for receiving deported asylum seekers.

The UK has committed assistance to Rwanda underlining how important this partnership is in pursuing migration control objectives.

Considering the intricate network of immigration policy, human rights considerations, and diplomatic relationships in the UK, the signing of this asylum treaty holds significance. The result will not only shape the government’s stance on migration but will also impact the global perception of its strategies in handling these complex issues.

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