The Memo: Rwanda to receive Britain’s asylum seekers despite appeal courts ruling it unlawful

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Rwanda to receive Britain’s asylum seekers despite appeal courts ruling it unlawful

Chelsey Stanborough – 10 July 2023

Court of appeal judges have ruled that sending asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their claims processed is unlawful. Despite the ruling, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated that the government plans to seek permission to go against the decision of the appeal, based on comments in the high court in December 2022 that described Rwanda as a safe destination. The fallout comes against the backdrop of increasing tension around the government’s approach to migrants, with attempted crossings to European shores (and loss of life as a result) at record highs.

The main concern in the case was the conditions and treatment that asylum seekers would face once they arrived in Rwanda. Rwandan officials have assured the UK government they have the means necessary to ensure there is no risk to asylum seekers who would relocate there. Now, the Illegal Migration Bill making its way through parliament makes it clear that anyone arriving in the UK by ‘irregular means’ will be sent to Rwanda for processing.

As it stands, international refugee law ensures that asylum seekers do not need to make their claim in the first safe country they come across. Yet, in the UK, asylum seekers are encouraged to claim the first safe country they arrive in, and, if they travel through to the UK, they are then prohibited from making a claim of asylum according to the Home Office. Where the new bill seeks to emulate European law, Rwanda will become a first-stop safe country, allowing migrants who reach Rwanda to make a claim for asylum at the point of arrival.

It remains the case that global developments play a far bigger role in bringing about attempts at small boat access to Europe. What’s more, human rights groups have highlighted that changes in government policy will do little to dissuade asylum seekers who are unaware of the laws that govern the states they enter. As per previous human rights cases regarding immigration, asylum seekers are entitled to accommodation while their application is being processed, and the government’s new bill raises doubts about the feasibility of staying within that legal framework if migrants are flown overseas before their applications can be processed.

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