The British government's controversial Rwanda bill, which would deem the African country a safe place to deport people, is fundamentally incompatible with Britain's human rights obligations and a breach of international law, according to a controversial parliamentary report.
Members and colleagues of the ruling and opposition party's Joint Human Rights Committee delivered a critical analysis of the safety of Rwanda's bill, which is rapidly progressing through parliament.
The purpose of the bill is to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling last November that Rwanda was not a safe country from which British asylum seekers could be forcibly deported.
The bill states that Rwanda is in fact a safe country and that anyone sent to Rwanda by the British government will not be forced to move to an unsafe country. The report said it was unclear whether this could be guaranteed in practice.
This is the latest report from legal and human rights experts criticizing the UK government's plans for Rwanda and raising questions about whether the policy is safe, feasible and compliant with national and international law.
Taking a line-by-line examination of the bill, which reached Senate committee stage on Monday, the report found that it was fundamentally incompatible with the UK's human rights obligations, undermined protections set out in human rights law and violated some of them. It does not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights and falls short of the UK's commitments to comply with international treaties.
This goes beyond concerns about Rwanda policy and warns that any steps the government takes to invalidate certain laws will put the UK's hard-won reputation for the rule of law and human rights at risk.
It states that the bill, which completely excludes judicial scrutiny, seeks to undermine the constitutional role of domestic courts in holding the executive branch to account.
Human rights group Liberty presented evidence that even if the court heard evidence that Rwanda was unsafe, it would have to put its fingers in its ears and pretend it was.
The committee collected evidence from legal experts, academics and NGOs. An overwhelming majority said the bill was incompatible with human rights law.
The committee asked whether Rwanda was now a safe country to send asylum seekers as it was enshrined in the bill, and the majority of witnesses concluded the answer was no.
The committee found that when presenting the bill for the second time in a year, ministers were unable to confirm that the bill was likely to comply with the UK's international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Joanna Cherry MP, chair of the committee, said: This bill is designed to remove important protections against persecution and human rights abuses, including the fundamental right to access the courts. Hostility to human rights lies at its core and no amendment can salvage it.
This is not just about the rights or wrongs of Rwanda's policies themselves. By taking this approach, the Bill risks causing enormous damage to the UK's reputation internationally as a defender of human rights.
A Home Office spokesperson said: We are committed to tackling this major global challenge with bold, innovative solutions and the Rwanda plan is doing just that. The legislation we have introduced and the resulting treaty are the best way to get flights to Rwanda as quickly as possible.
Rwanda is clearly a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees. It hosts more than 135,000 asylum seekers and is prepared to move people and help them rebuild their lives.
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