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UK’s Newly Passed ‘Safety In Rwanda’ Bill Is Anything But Safe: UN Officials


Following the United Kingdom Parliament’s passage of
the “Safety of Rwanda” bill, two top UN officials
sounded an alarm on Tuesday about its harmful impact on
global responsibility-sharing, human rights and refugee
protection.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees, and Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights, issued a joint
statement
calling on the UK Government to reconsider its
plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda.

This
arrangement seeks to shift responsibility for
refugee protection
, undermining international
cooperation, Mr. Grandi added.

“The new legislation
marks a further step away from the UK’s long
tradition of providing refuge to those in need
, in
breach of the Refugee Convention,” he said. “Protecting
refugees requires all countries, not just those neighbouring
crisis zones, to uphold their obligations.”

Instead,
the UK should take practical measures to address irregular
flows of refugees and migrants, based on international
cooperation and respect for international human rights law,
the UN officials said.

Raises risks for asylum
seekers

The asylum and immigration legislation, known
commonly as the Safety of Rwanda bill, was tabled before
Parliament alongside the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Treaty
after the UK’s Supreme Court found last year that
the proposed transfer of asylum seekers to the
African country would breach international and UK
law
.

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The court’s decision had noted
weaknesses in Rwanda’s system for determining individual
asylum claims.

But, the bill and the treaty do
not in practice overcome the protection gaps

identified by the Supreme Court, the UN officials stated,
adding that once enacted, the measures will restrict the UK
courts from properly scrutinising removal decisions, leaving
asylum seekers with limited room to appeal even if they face
significant risks.

New bill sets ‘a perilous
precedent’

Mr. Türk said the bill infringes on the
rule of law.

“By shifting responsibility for
refugees, reducing the UK’s courts’ ability to
scrutinise removal decisions, restricting access to legal
remedies in the UK and limiting the scope of domestic and
international human rights protections for a specific group
of people, this new legislation seriously hinders
the rule of law
in the UK and sets a perilous
precedent globally,” the UN rights chief said.

He
said it is critical to the protection of the human rights
and dignity of refugees and migrants seeking protection that
all removals from the UK are carried out after assessing
their specific individual circumstances in strict compliance
with international human rights and refugee law.

A
fair, efficient and well-governed migration and
asylum system is key
to ensuring access to
protection for those in need and enabling the return home of
those with no lawful basis to remain, the UN officials
said.

Acknowledging the challenges presented by the
irregular movement of refugees and migrants, often in
dangerous circumstances, the UN leaders nonetheless
expressed grave concern that the legislation would
facilitate transfers under the UK-Rwanda asylum partnership,
with only limited consideration of their individual
circumstances or any protection risks
.

They
called on the UK instead to pursue
practical cooperation
with countries along the
routes that refugees and migrants take, to strengthen
protection and offer real alternatives. This includes
expanding safe and regular pathways to protection, they
said.

Progressively restrictive laws

The UN
officials pointed out that the new legislation is the third
in a series of progressively restrictive laws that have
eroded access to refugee protection in the UK since 2022,
including through a ban on access to asylum or other forms
of permission to stay in the UK for those arriving
irregularly via a third country.

If implemented, the
new bill would “pave the way for asylum seekers, including
families with children, to be summarily sent to Rwanda to
present their asylum claims, with no prospect of return to
the UK”, they said.

The new bill will also
drastically limit the ability for asylum seekers to
challenge or appeal removal decisions, with decision makers
and judges required to conclusively treat Rwanda as a
“safe” country in terms of protecting asylum seekers,
regardless of any evidence to the contrary, now or in the
future, the UN officials said.

This situation is even
more concerning given the legislation expressly authorises
the UK Government to disregard any protective interim
remedies from the European Court of Human Rights, the UN
chiefs
warned.

© Scoop Media

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