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Human rights groups condemn Rwanda Bill as ‘breach of international law’

23 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Photo Gareth Fuller PA Images

Human rights groups have condemned the Government’s newly passed Rwanda deportation plan as a “breach of international law”.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill finally passed through Parliament early on Tuesday morning after numerous disagreements led to lengthy “ping-pong” between the two Houses.

The charity Freedom from Torture, alongside Amnesty International and Liberty, criticised the Government for ignoring the findings of the Supreme Court, which ruled the policy was unlawful in November.

The groups said the Bill poses “a significant threat to the rule of law” by undermining what protects people from an abuse of power by the state, and described Parliament as a “crime scene”.

They added that the UK is increasingly gaining a reputation for “playing fast and loose with its international obligations” and called for the asylum system to be rebuilt.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak believes sending asylum seekers on the one-way trip to Rwanda could be a strong deterrent to people seeking to cross the English Channel in small boats.

‘Shameful’

A spokesman for the organisations said: “We all deserve the chance to live a safe life, and to seek protection when we need it most. This shameful Bill trashes the constitution and international law whilst putting torture survivors and other refugees at risk of an unsafe future in Rwanda.

“No matter how many times the Prime Minister says so, we know this is not the will of the people.

“Caring people up and down the UK want to see men, women and children who’ve fled war, persecution and torture given protection and security, so they can recover and rebuild their lives in safety.

“Instead of punishing people who’ve already been through so much, we need compassionate and protection-focused policies.

“It’s time for those in power to stop demonising and scapegoating some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and to restore the right to asylum in the UK and uphold vital international protections.”

Kolbassia Haoussou, director of survivor leadership and influencing at Freedom from Torture, said: “When I fled torture in my homeland, the UK granted me sanctuary and a chance to rebuild my life.

“But now, people like me could be sped onto planes to face an unsafe future in Rwanda, and denied the safety and security needed for their recovery.

“We know from the work we do in our therapy rooms every day how terrified survivors are, and we’ve seen first-hand the awful toll it has taken on people’s mental health.

“We urgently need the UK Government to start treating refugees with decency and stop trying to send them thousands of miles away.”

‘Misguided’

Denisa Delic, director of advocacy at International Rescue Committee UK, said: “Rather than outsourcing its responsibilities under international law, we urge the Government to abandon this misguided plan and instead focus on delivering a more humane and orderly immigration system at home.

“This includes scaling up safe routes, such as resettlement and family reunion, and upholding the right to seek asylum.

“Sending refugees to Rwanda, or anywhere else, will never be an effective solution.”

Dr Wanda Wyporska, chief executive officer at Safe Passage International, called the Bill “unbelievably cruel and shameful”.

She said: “Not only does it undermine international and UK human rights laws, but it simply won’t work to deter people from making dangerous Channel crossings, as refugees have no other way to reach safety and family here.

“At the very heart of this brutal law are people simply seeking a safe life with their families, and children hoping to escape the horrors of war.

“The reality is that the UK Government has chosen to deny refugees safe ways to reach the UK to ask for protection, yet it’s determined to punish people whose only option is to risk their lives to get here.

“Rather than tearing apart families and inflicting further misery on people who have fled war and persecution, this Government should stop wasting resources on getting planes to Rwanda. Instead, it should focus on opening safe routes, such as a refugee visa, for people to reach protection safely.”

An open letter to Mr Sunak, signed by some 251 organisations described it as a “shameful and performatively cruel law that will risk people’s lives and betray who we are as a society”.

The organisations, including the Refugee Council, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Care4Calais and Choose Love, said: “Outsourcing our asylum system to other countries is never acceptable. It abandons our duty to share in the global responsibility towards those forced to seek safety.”

Safe routes

The British Red Cross repeated calls for more safe routes and a more efficient asylum processing system.

Sal Copley, its executive director of communications, said: “What the UK needs is an efficient, supportive and more compassionate asylum system, that makes decisions on people’s claims quickly and correctly.

“More safe routes are also urgently needed to prevent people from taking desperate and dangerous journeys to reach safety in the UK.”

Mr Sunak acknowledged on Monday that the first planes carrying asylum seekers to Rwanda would not take off until July.

After that, he said there will be “multiple flights a month through the summer and beyond”.


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Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

One option is Sunak here is looking for a reason to pull us out the ECHR? They will do this to vulnerable people (Braverman dreams of this hate and harm, her words), they attack the sick, they force people into debt and starvation, who will they go after next? They tried to stop a legal protest at a court (just lost a case) and will try to clamp down on further protests (BMA concerns over the direction for a docrtor that took part in a stop oil protest). They are coming for you next. Bound to be a few that… Read more »

Che Guevara's Fist
Che Guevara's Fist
1 month ago

It makes you wonder at what point people decide they’ve had enough of this treatment from the psychopaths in power that it’s beyond time to revisit violence back on the state. Then again, that requires people to have a spine and a pair of legs to stand on.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
1 month ago

2024 – the year this cruel cruel government is kicked out. The UK used to be considered a safe and secure haven for those wanting refuge – no more. The country needs to show these people more compassion and sympathy – they are not scroungers, murders and rapists.

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