UK’s Asylum Policies for Rwandans Criticized for Violating Human Rights

Britain’s new legislation on its contentious plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing undermines fundamental human rights norms, UN human rights chief Volker Turk warned Monday.

Turk said the moves to ease removals to Rwanda violated fundamental principles of the rule of law and risked undermining human rights.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration presented the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill late last year, shortly after the Supreme Court decided that deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda violated international law.

If passed following further review in both chambers of parliament, the measure would require British judges to recognize Rwanda as a safe third country.

It would also give government ministers the authority to reject parts of international and British human rights legislation.

“The combined effects of this bill, attempting to shield government action from standard legal scrutiny, directly undercut basic human rights principles,” Turkish officials said in a statement.

“Governments cannot revoke their international human rights and asylum-related obligations by legislation.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has appealed for the bill to be examined.

“I urge the UK government to take all necessary steps to ensure full compliance with the UK’s international legal obligations, and to uphold the country’s proud history of effective, independent judicial scrutiny,” he said.

“Such a stance is today more vital than ever.”

Sunak has vowed to reduce normal and irregular immigration, which has reached record levels, despite promises to tighten UK borders following the country’s exit from the European Union.

Sunak’s commitment to “stop the boats” of migrants crossing the Channel from northern France in weak and ill-suited watercraft revolves around the Rwanda proposal.

He maintains that the idea to deport asylum seekers to the East African country is critical for discouraging people from traveling to Britain illegally.

Sunak will have a general election in the second part of this year, with immigration expected to be a prominent topic. According to opinion polls, his Conservative Party is on the verge of defeat.

‘Antithetical’ to justice

Turk claimed that the measure would significantly limit the courts’ power to review removal judgments by compelling all decision-makers to treat Rwanda as a safe place, regardless of any evidence that exists now or may emerge in the future.

“Settling questions of disputed fact — questions with enormous human rights consequences — are what the courts do, and which the UK courts have a proven track record of doing thoroughly and comprehensively,” he said.

“The courts should evaluate whether the government’s measures adopted after the Supreme Court’s verdict on dangers in Rwanda are sufficient.

“You cannot legislate facts out of existence.”

Turk expressed concern that the bill will significantly restrict the application of human rights laws and norms.

It also makes the implementation of interim protection orders issued by the European Court of Human Rights discretionary, even though they are globally obligatory on Britain.

“It is profoundly troubling to exclude one set of individuals, or people in one specific scenario, from the equal protection of the laws. This is diametrically opposed to impartial justice, which is available to all without discrimination,” Turk stated.

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