A key parliamentary committee has criticised the UK government’s plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, stating it is “fundamentally incompatible” with the UK’s human rights safeguards. The Joint Committee on Human Rights warned that the legislation could damage the UK’s international reputation. The bill, which was approved by MPs last month despite significant opposition, will be debated in detail by the House of Lords this week.
The controversial legislation, proposed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has already caused a split within his own party and led to the resignation of the immigration minister. The scheme, which has cost £290m so far, would block asylum claims from anyone arriving via the English Channel and instead send them to Rwanda. The Rwandan government has pledged to consider their cases for protection.
However, the UK Supreme Court has previously ruled that Rwanda is not a safe country as it could send victims of abuses, including torture, back to countries they have fled from. If the legislation is passed, British judges would be instructed to deem Rwanda a safe place without considering the evidence again.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights warned that the bill could deny almost all asylum seekers the legal right to ask an independent court to assess their case to remain in the UK. The committee also expressed doubts about Rwanda’s promise to improve its human rights safeguards in a new treaty with the UK.
Joanna Cherry KC, the SNP MP who chairs the committee, said the bill was so flawed that it risked damaging the UK’s reputation for upholding human rights. Critics of the bill have proposed 90 amendments.
A Home Office spokesperson defended the plan, stating that the Rwanda scheme was a “bold and innovative solution” to a major global challenge. They argued that Rwanda is a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees. However, public documents revealed that the Home Office expects to spend £700m on arrivals by 2030.