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UK seeks to revive migrant transfer deal with Rwanda

Britain and Rwanda have inked a new treaty aimed at rescuing failed plans for the UK to deport asylum-seekers. A top court ruling had blocked the policy, saying it violated human rights laws enshrined in UK legislation.

UK seeks to revive migrant transfer deal with Rwanda
UK seeks to revive migrant transfer deal with Rwanda

The interior ministers of Britain and Rwanda on Tuesday signed an agreement aimed at reviving a failed policy aimed at relocating irregular arrivals to the UK to the East African country.

The UK government said the plan, dismissed by the opposition as unworkable, is essential for it to meet a promise to slash migration.

What did the ministers say about the deal?

UK Home Secretary James Cleverly signed the agreement with his Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta, saying it would "address all the issues" raised by the UK Supreme Court last month when it ruled that the policy was unlawful.

"There is a lot of desire to continue to improve the process. The UK and Rwanda are working on this because it is important," Cleverly said at a joint press briefing in Kigali.

Biruta said his country remained committed to the proposal and had no plans to withdraw support.

"Rwanda is very committed to this partnership and that is why we worked with the UK government to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court."

What does the new treaty entail?

The agreement is believed to include commitments from Rwanda about how asylum-seekers and other migrants would be treated when arriving from Britain.

The UK government hopes that these will address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court in November.

President of the Supreme Court Robert Reed said Rwanda had a history of misunderstanding its obligations to refugees and of "refoulement" — sending claimants back to the country they had sought protection from, even if unsafe.

"There is a real risk that asylum claims will not be determined properly, and that asylum-seekers will in consequence be at risk of being returned directly or indirectly to their country of origin," the judges said. "In that event, genuine refugees will face a real risk of ill-treatment."

A deputy spokesman for Rwanda's government said the two countries would "set up a joint tribunal with both Rwandan and UK judges in Kigali... to make sure that none of the immigrants sent to Rwanda is deported to their country."

The original agreement had envisaged sending to Rwanda anyone who makes "dangerous or illegal journeys" to Britain on small boats from Europe or hidden in lorries.

The two countries struck the deal in April 2022 for such migrants to be sent to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. If successful, they would stay in Rwanda.

The UK government claims that such deportations would discourage others from making the journeys and break the business model of people-smuggling gangs.

Most migration via legal routes

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — whose party is lagging in the polls and faces an election next year — is under intense pressure to reduce net migration, which hit a record 745,000 last year. The vast majority of those came through legal routes.

Opponents of the agreement with Rwanda say it is unethical and unworkable, with the opposition Labour's home affairs spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper, dismissing it as a "gimmick."

The UK Home Office itself has estimated that removing every asylum-seeker to a country such as Rwanda could cost 169,000 pounds per person (about €197,000; $213,000).

Rwanda has already received an initial payment of 140 million pounds, with the promise that more money would be sent to fund the accommodation and care of any people who are deported.

The legal challenges to the UK government have prompted some on the right of the ruling Conservative Party to urge the government to leave the European Convention on Human Rights after deportation flights were originally blocked by the European Court of Human Rights.

Source: Dw

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