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European Human Rights Watch condemns UK's Rwanda bill | Immigration and Asylum

European Human Rights Watch condemns UK's Rwanda bill |  Immigration and Asylum

 


The Council of Europe's human rights watchdog has condemned Rishi Sunak's Rwanda plan, saying it raises major questions about the human rights of asylum seekers and the rule of law.

The group's human rights director Michael OFlaherty said the bill, which is expected to be signed into law on Tuesday after passing the parliamentary stage on Monday night, was a matter of serious concern and could not be used to remove asylum seekers or undermine the independence of judges. He said it should not be used.

OFlaherty said he was concerned that the Rwandan bill would enable the country to implement a policy of deporting people to Rwanda, in most cases without prior assessment of their asylum claims by British authorities. He added that the bill also significantly excludes the ability of UK courts to do so. Any issues raised will be fully and independently scrutinized.

The UK remains a member of the pan-European organization that promotes human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the continent.

OFlaherty warned that the UK is prohibited, even indirectly, from forcibly returning refugees or asylum seekers to countries or territories where they are likely to face persecution, including under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. , in accordance with the Refugee Convention and various other international instruments.

Sunak said flights to take asylum seekers to Kigali would begin within 10 to 12 weeks, admitting he would miss his target for flights to take off by spring. After the bill was passed, the Prime Minister promised that this would be a fundamental change to the global equation on immigration.

But the Home Secretary said the government was bracing for inevitable legal challenges to the Rwandan plan and that there were people determined to do whatever it took to stop it from working.

Charities and rights groups have condemned the passage of the bill as a stain on the country's moral reputation.

Illegal immigration minister Michael Tomlinson told Times Radio the government knew there would be a legal battle ahead. I am afraid that difficulties will arise. Some people don't like this policy.

He said there were arrogant and condescending comments about the treatment of homosexuals in Rwanda and that Rwanda was a very progressive country.

“Quite frankly, it's not something we've heard recently in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but there were some debates in the early days that seemed to be belittling and condescending towards Rwanda,” he said. That's right. People can be safely sent to Rwanda, it is not illegal to be gay in Rwanda, and discrimination for any reason is illegal in Rwanda.

The bill passed after a battle with his colleagues, ultimately conceding on two amendments. But the government is expected to face several legal battles as it prepares to deport asylum seekers by July.

The Prime Minister said the legislation was not just a step forward, but a fundamental change in the global equation on immigration.

“We have introduced the Rwanda bill to stop vulnerable migrants from making dangerous border crossings and to break the business models of criminal organizations that exploit them,” he said.

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The passage of this bill will allow us to do that and make it very clear that if you come here illegally, you cannot stay. Our focus now is getting the plane off the ground. And I am confident that nothing will stop us from doing so and saving lives.

The cost of the transaction would be $1.8 million for the first 300 people deported, the National Audit Office confirmed. On Monday morning, Sunak admitted at a press conference that the first flights taking asylum seekers to Kigali would not take off for up to 12 weeks, despite promising they would take off in the spring.

Lawyers told the Guardian they would prepare legal challenges on behalf of individual asylum seekers. They can appeal removal on a case-by-case basis. The Home Office has a list of 350 asylum seekers who it considers to be at least risk of submitting a successful legal challenge.

The bill allows prisoners to file objections if they face a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreparable harm if transferred to Rwanda. They must file an appeal within eight days of receiving their deportation letter.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK representative, said the bill threatened international legal protection for the world's most vulnerable people and it was a national shame that our political system had passed it.

The bill is built on highly authoritarian concepts that attack one of the most basic roles that courts perform: their ability to review evidence, determine the facts of a case and apply the law accordingly. It is absurd to force courts to treat Rwanda as a safe country and prohibit them from considering all evidence to the contrary.

Sources

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2/ https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/apr/23/council-of-europe-human-rights-watchdog-condemns-uk-rwanda-scheme

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