Peer Points Out Key Flaw With Government's Rwanda Policy: 'Ought To Be Ashamed Of Ourselves'

Crossbencher Lord Kerr called for a particular group to be exempt from potential deportation.
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The former head of the UK’s diplomatic service just pointed out a fundamental problem with the government’s Rwanda deportation policy.

As the Lords debated the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, Lord Kerr noted that Rwandan asylum seekers coming to the UK could – as the bill currently stands – be sent back to their home country as part of the deportation scheme.

That would go against UN Refugee Convention which protects refugees from being sent back to countries where they risk being persecuted.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Wednesday, Lord Kerr said it was “right” to exempt unaccompanied children and victims of human trafficking or modern slavery, from being deported to Rwanda.

“But I wonder if there isn’t a fourth category that should be in there,” he said. “What about citizens of Rwanda?”

Addressing the House, Kerr asked: “Am I correct in thinking under the Illegal Migration Act 2023, any Rwandan who arrives in this country by irregular means is automatically inadmissible for asylum, and when the bill we’re debating becomes an act, is liable for transportation to Rwanda?

“In that situation, where a Rwandan is sent by us to Rwanda, whatever we have achieved in approving the Rwandan asylum system through our treaty, is irrelevant.”

He concluded: “If we do find ourselves with a law on our statute book, which means we send Rwandans, who sought asylum here, back to Rwanda, we ought to be ashamed with ourselves.”

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled the scheme was unlawful in 2022 because of the risk of sending migrants back to the place they were fleeing to begin with.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International flagged several issues with Rwanda when it signed the deportation deal with the UK, such as the policing of women’s outfits, problems with privacy rights and press freedom.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR also ruled that the deportation programme was unlawful in 2022 because of concerns about Rwanda’s asylum process.

This included Rwanda’s denial of access to asylum procedure, the risk of detention and deportation, discrimination against LGBTQ+ refugees and inadequate legal representation.

Meanwhile, at the end of January, the the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said, “the Safety of Rwanda Bill undermines the universality of human rights by disapplying core provisions” of the Human Rights Act.

The government has admitted that the proposed bill might not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, but claims Rwanda is a safe country.

The government hopes once the bill passes, flights will take off by spring.


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