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UN experts warn airlines over Sunak’s Rwanda scheme

22 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Prime Minster Rishi Sunak. Photo Carl Recine/PA Wire

United Nations experts have warned airlines involved in Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda asylum scheme they could be held responsible for any violations of international human rights rules.

Siobhan Mullally, Gehad Madi and Alice Jill Edwards, the special rapporteurs on human trafficking, migrants’ human rights and torture, warned airlines and regulators could be “complicit” in breaching the rules by facilitating removals to Rwanda.

The Prime Minister used a Downing Street press conference to say that the Government had booked commercial charter plans and had an airfield on standby for the first Rwanda flight, which would take place in 10-12 weeks.

But the UN experts said: “Even if the UK-Rwanda agreement and the Safety of Rwanda Bill are approved, airlines and aviation regulators could be complicit in violating internationally protected human rights and court orders by facilitating removals to Rwanda.”

The legislation, which is set to clear Parliament later on Monday, is aimed at making the plan to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda legally watertight.

But the UN experts said: “If airlines and aviation authorities give effect to state decisions that violate human rights, they must be held responsible for their conduct.

“As the UN guiding principles on business and human rights underline, aviation regulators, international organisations and business actors are required to respect human rights.”

The UN experts have been in contact with the UK Government, as well as national, European and international aviation regulators, including the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and international bodies including the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to express their concerns and remind them of their responsibilities.


James Wilson, director of campaign group Detention Action, said: “By forcing people onto planes to Rwanda, this Government is outsourcing its responsibility to protect people seeking asylum here.

“Airlines must not profit from the misery and human rights abuses caused by this plan.

“It will set a very dangerous precedent that businesses can ignore human rights and international law when it suits them, putting us all at risk.”

The Government has reportedly struggled to find an airline willing to take part in the Rwandascheme.

Downing Street was thought to have drawn up plans to order the Ministry of Defence to repurpose at least one leased aircraft like an RAF Voyager, if required.

Campaigners have called on AirTanker, the company which supplies Voyager to the RAF, not to get involved and claimed tens of thousands of people had written urging the same.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts said it’s not too late to stop the “vile and expensive plan”.

She said: “The Rwanda scheme remains unlawful and unfit for any purpose.

“The UK government has refused House of Lords amendments calling for such basic things as respect for human rights and modern slavery legislation. The remaining amendments are more basic still – yet the Tories refuse to compromise on this cruel Bill. This speaks volumes.

“Rishi Sunak talks of a ‘deterrent’ – but Home Office documents show little evidence that policies of deterrence work, and the Refugee Council has found that the plan will instead to a higher risk of exploitation.

“It is not too late to stop this vile – and extraordinarily expensive – plan. Plaid Cymru calls on the Tory government to stop undermining human rights and turn its hand to a dignified, compassionate asylum policy as a matter of urgency.”

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Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
25 days ago

Deporting a few people here and there to the ‘safe’ country of Rwanda will not deter people getting into boats to cross the channel or the people smugglers who profit from it. Everyone knows this, but the Tories think it will be a vote winner, blinded as they are by their hatred of the immigrant. Labour must scrap this cruel and heartless policy, when it gets into power.

25 days ago

Lets see. Courts are in a mess, assaults and rapes are years to get to court yet he has rigged up a quick access and set aside judges and court time to get this rolling. He doesn’t care about the problems in the uk courts but will shift a lot to force this through. Waiting for a serious trial? You dont matter.

this is a game for this cess pit of a party now. Do they want this stopped so they can claim ECHR do e it and yank us out?

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