• 27 May, 2024
Foreign Affairs, Geopolitics & National Security

UK passes Rishi Sunak’s ambitious Rwanda migrant bill after facing two years of challenges

Tue, 23 Apr 2024   |  Reading Time: 3 minutes


London [UK], April 23 (ANI): The UK Parliament has passed the contentious bill, allowing the government to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be considered by the East African nation, reported CNN.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s efforts to pass the bill had been stuck between opposition in the Houses of Parliament and challenges in the British courts, as lawmakers and activists have sought to scupper the legislation on human rights grounds.
Moreover, Sunak’s inability to implement the policy has caused considerable embarrassment, as the British government has sent millions of pounds to Rwanda to fund a scheme that has failed to deliver any results to date, CNN reported.

It has been designed to prevent irregular migration into the UK, particularly people travelling on illegal and dangerous small boats from France, arranged by criminal gangs.
Meanwhile, in theory, the legislation will see some landing in the UK sent to Rwanda where their asylum claim will be considered. If their claim is accepted, they will stay in Rwanda. If it is declined, the bill says they cannot be deported by Rwanda to anywhere other than the UK, though it is unclear what would ultimately happen in this scenario.

The scheme was first conceived in 2022 when, Sunak, who became prime minister then, made it the mission of his government to put a stop to these arrivals by following through on a Conservative pledge to “stop the boats”.
Two years after the scheme was first conceived, the absence of any deportations so far has been considered a major failure for Sunak, CNN reported.

Last year, the Supreme Court of the UK ruled that the policy is unlawful “because there are substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers would face a real risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement to their country of origin if they were removed to Rwanda.”
Refoulement is the practice where asylum seekers or refugees are forcibly returned to a place where they would face persecution or danger, against important principles of international human rights law.

The judges noted that as recently as 2021, the UK government criticized Rwanda for “extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture.”
The government responded by introducing the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill in January of this year, which effectively enshrines in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country, overriding the judges’ concerns.
Home Secretary James Cleverly, in a video posted on X on Monday, said that “the Safety of Rwanda Bill has passed in Parliament and it will become law within days.”
He added that the act would “prevent people from abusing the law by using false human rights claims to block removals. And it makes clear that the UK Parliament is sovereign, giving the government the power to reject interim blocking measures imposed by European courts,” reported CNN.

However, even with the bill passed, the government might face legal challenges in the European Court of Human Rights, as the UK is still a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. The European court has previously barred it from sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The bill has suffered long delays because of attempts to amend it.
A process colloquially known as “ping pong,” where the two parts of the UK’s parliament – the House of Commons and the House of Lords – send legislation back and forth, has been going on for months.
Every time the House of Lords makes amendments to the bill, the House of Commons, where Sunak has a majority, must vote to remove them, according to CNN.

In 2022, the number of people arriving by small boats was 45,744, according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.
Moreover, net migration in the same year was 745,000, according to government figures.
This is a problem for Sunak and his governing Conservative Party, as they are set to face the public in a general election that must be called before the end of this year.
Parties on the right – most notably Reform UK, the new political home of arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, will push the issue of illegal migration as hard as possible.

Notably, the opposition Labour party has already promised to scrap the Rwanda plans if it comes to power at the next general election, which must be held by January next year but is widely expected to take place later this year, Al Jazeera reported. (ANI)

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