Developments in the UK’s controversial Rwanda policy
The government’s plan to introduce a Rwanda asylum-deportation plan has been in limbo since the ECHR intervened with a last-minute injunction, which prevented asylum seekers from being sent to Rwanda.
Underpinning the Rwanda policy is a memorandum of understanding. The MoU is a type of international agreement between two states that are distinguished from formal treaties as they are not binding in international law. In a statement the House of Lords international agreements committee said that using a MoU, as opposed to a legally binding treaty, render the safeguards “not enforceable” and that the policy is “unacceptable.” Unlike treaties, MoUs do not have to be laid before Parliament for a 21-day scrutiny period. As this is a policy with far reaching human rights implications, the committee has called on the government to facilitate scrutiny for important MoUs.
The proposed deportations continue to be examined by the High court. Suella Braverman, the home secretary under the previous Liz truss regime and now reinstated by the new PM Rishi Sunak, reaffirmed the Conservative government’s desire to enforce this new legislation at the Conservative party conference. Along with the previous prime minister, Boris Johnson, the home secretary hopes the controversial policy will deter those arriving onto the British shores in dinghies. Braverman said it was her “dream” and “obsession” to see a plane of asylum seekers leave the UK and arrive in Rwanda, among further legal challenges.
In October 2022, Asylum Aid’s challenge was heard in front of the high court. The NGO’s barristers argued that the home office has adopted a procedure for sending people to Rwanda that is unlawful and unfair. This was regarding the timeframe of the removal process, which provides seven days (if in detention) or 14 days to access legal advice and put forward evidence as to why they should not be deported to Rwanda. Among the backdrop of changing Prime Ministers, the CEO at Care4calais has appealed to Rishi Sunak to scrap the policy. In a previous hearing, the court heard that “Asylum seekers removed to Rwanda face significant risk of violation of their rights to be free from torture and inhumane treatment,” as declared by Raza Husain KC, appearing on behalf of asylum seekers.