The UK government signed the Asylum Partnership Arrangement with the Rwanda government on the 14th of April 2022.

 

As part of the plan, the government is intending to relocate some asylum seekers to Rwanda on a one-way ticket.  The relocation plan will target young single migrants who have arrived in the UK since 1st January 2022. Once transferred, Rwanda would take responsibility for those sent there. The Home Office intended to make its first transfer on 14th June, however this was blocked at the last minute by the European Court of Human Rights. The UK Government have since maintained their position that they intend to continue with the policy.

 

Humans Rights Watch Concerns

 

The Humans Rights Watch has published a letter that has been sent to the Secretary of State for the Home Department expressing their serious concerns with the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement and expulsions to Rwanda. Some of the concerns are as follows:

 

  • Asylum seekers will be processed under Rwanda’s asylum system. This means that the UK is seeking to shift their responsibilities onto another country and therefore acting against the purpose of the 1951 Refugee Convention
  • Rwanda cannot be considered as a safe third country for asylum seekers as there has been routine reports of serious human right violations.
  • Rwanda has reports of Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial detention facilities are commonplace in Rwanda
  • HRW have concerned that there would be serious violations of free speech. Asylum seekers will be at risk of abuse if they speak up about their treatment or conditions in Rwanda.
  • The Rwandan judiciary’s lack of independence and failure to investigate abuse
  • Abuses against and risks for LGBT people

 

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

 

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has published its analysis of the legality and appropriateness of the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement and expulsions to Rwanda.

 

In particular, the UNHCR considered whether the arrangement met the requirements of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

 

The UNHCR concluded that asylum seekers and refugees claims should be processed in the state where they first arrive and therefore the current UK—Rwanda arrangement fails to meet the required standards and it seems to shift UK’s responsibility and lacks necessary safeguards.

 

Our comments

 

Both publications produced by the Humans Rights Watch and The UN High Commissioner for Refugees hold very valid points which need to be addressed by the United Kingdom. Asylum Seekers and Refugees are some of the most vulnerable in society and we must ensure that their cases are dealt with great care.

 

It appears that in light of the above, the Secretary of State may need to brace themselves for a legal challenge in the near future. This would suggest that it will not be as easy for the Government to proceed with the Rwanda policy as they might wish, something they claimed they anticipated when the policy was announced.

 

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