UK forces through Rwanda deportation bill

Britain’s Conservative government finally won passage on Monday of its flagship immigration policy, which human rights campaigners say is inhumane, immigration experts say is unworkable and rule of law critics say is inhumane. It passed a bill to expel Rwanda that it said had damaged the country’s reputation for the rule of law.

The law aims to allow the government to put some asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda, where their claims can be processed by authorities in the central African country. If they are then granted refugee status, they will be resettled in Rwanda rather than the UK.

From the moment the scheme was first introduced under then Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022, experts said it breached the UK’s human rights obligations under domestic and international law.

Deportation attempts are likely to face further legal challenges, even after new legislation was passed that met fierce opposition in the House of Lords and effectively overrode a UK Supreme Court ruling, with large numbers of foreign nationals are unlikely to be deported. Asylum seekers will be sent to Rwanda.

However, current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed that The government announced on Monday that it would begin operating multiple charter flights each month starting in 10 to 12 weeks. Hours before the final vote, Mr Sunak said cheerfully: “No matter what, these flights will operate.” “This is innovative,” he said of the policy. “This is revolutionary, but it’s going to be a game changer.”

The difficult path this plan took to become law is largely indicative of the state of British politics post-Brexit. The divided Conservative Party has clung to the policy for two years, despite its desperate bid to exploit fears over immigration to close the gap with the opposition Labor Party. Legal setbacks and deep questions about their cost and feasibility.

It is conceivable that the government could launch some flights ahead of the general election expected in the autumn, but only at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds and which critics say could tarnish the country’s reputation. It is said that it will become. A bulwark of international and human rights law.

“It pushes all the buttons: the limits of executive power, the role of the House of Lords, the courts, the contradictions between domestic and international law,” said Jill Rutter, a senior fellow at Britain’s Institute for the Study of a Changing Europe. . “With this policy, you’re playing constitutional constraint bingo.”

The plan not only brought Mr Sunak into conflict with civil servants, opposition politicians and politicians; international tribunalin the process the government overruled the Supreme Court, effectively making up its own facts, critics said.

The new law writes into law that Rwanda is a “safe country” for refugees, ignoring court rulings based on substantial evidence that it is not. The law instructs judges and immigration officials to “finally treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country” and gives the government the power to ignore future international court decisions. There is no provision to amend it if the situation in Rwanda changes.

The African country has made political and social progress in recent decades, but was disrupted by genocide during a 1994 civil war and is now ruled by increasingly authoritarian leader Paul Kagame. Even sympathetic observers have pointed out that Anyone who openly disagrees with him risks arrest, torture, or death.

“You can’t make a country safe just by saying it’s safe,” said David Anderson, a barrister and member of the House of Lords. He is not affiliated with any political party and opposes this law. “That’s completely unreasonable.”

Given all these responsibilities, what is surprising is that Mr Sunak has embraced this plan as a means of fulfilling his promise to “stop the ship”. British newspapers reported that Mr Johnson was skeptical of the policy when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Political analysts said Sunak’s decision reflected pressure from the right wing of the party, which has strong support for sending refugees to Rwanda. But he spent millions of political dollars on a lengthy campaign to pass the bill, missing a self-imposed deadline to begin flights by spring. The often heated debate highlighted rifts between Conservative MPs, with moderates warning the bill went too far and hardliners complaining it didn’t go far enough.

The latest installment of this legislative drama saw the House of Commons and its unelected counterpart, the House of Lords, move the bill back and forth after the House of Lords tried and failed to attach amendments, including one that would require an independent monitoring group. I kicked him away. To make sure Rwanda is safe. On Monday, the Lords capitulated on the last of those amendments.

This paved the way for the House of Representatives to pass a bill known as the Rwanda Safety Bill. The government said it addressed the Supreme Court’s concerns through an agreement with the Rwandans last December. But critics said the British government still failed to guarantee that refugees would not be able to return to their countries of origin at some point, leaving them vulnerable to future violence and abuse.

Mr Johnson’s defense of the plan is hardly surprising, given his bombastic, freewheeling style that defies Britain’s tradition of careful, evidence-based policymaking. This was also a legacy of Brexit, which Mr Johnson campaigned for in 2016 when he promised to “take back control” of borders.

“Every time a small boat bounces around and we can’t get people out, it’s symbolic of the fact that we’re not really taking back control,” said Ms. Rutter, who branded the policy a “child of injustice.” . It’s Brexit. ”

Before leaving the EU, the UK worked with France to virtually eliminate the flow of people stowing away in trucks across the English Channel. But relations between Mr Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron have cooled, and Britain has fewer tools to put pressure on Paris after leaving the European Union.

The UK government’s desperation to stop the influx of barely seaworthy vessels became almost comical, such as when reports emerged that it was considering using giant wave-making devices to repel them. Sometimes I could see it.

There is still a possibility that the European Court of Human Rights will act to block deportation flights to Rwanda. And Labor has vowed to repeal the law if it comes to power. With the party leading in the polls by a large margin, the policy may be remembered more as a political talking point than as a practical effort to stop dangerous intersections.

Even if Labor were to put the plan on hold, it could come back to haunt the party once it comes to power, analysts say. Another law introduced last year barred people arriving after March 2023 from applying for asylum, leaving them in limbo.

Anand Menon, a professor of European politics at King’s College in London, said: “Labour is in a very difficult situation because they have 40,000 people being housed in hotels at great cost to the taxpayer. There is a possibility of falling.” “It’s not at all clear what you can do with them.”

He said the Rwanda debate reflected a broader issue for Western countries of curbing immigration. Other European governments are considering the idea of ​​processing asylum claims abroad, but have not gone so far as to declare that those granted refugee status should remain in those countries.

Referring to legal protection for refugees, Professor Menon said: “There are difficult discussions to be had about whether the treaties signed after the Second World War are still fit for purpose.” “The problem is that Western countries want to present themselves as kind and generous and humane and keep people out.”

Still, even if Britain were to succeed in sending some people to Rwanda, it seems unlikely that the policy would be judged as successful.

“The situation is now so tainted that most countries see this as a major reputational risk,” Professor Menon said, noting that even Rwanda’s flag carrier does so. reportedly rejected Invitation to fly flights from the UK. “It doesn’t look good.”

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