UN human rights watchdog urges Rishi Sunak to scrap Rwanda plan

Thursday 28 March 2024

Rishi Sunak has been urged to abandon his Rwanda scheme by a United Nations human rights watchdog.

The Prime Minister hopes to get planes carrying asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda in the air this spring, but the legislation is still held up in Parliament.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) called on the UK Government to abandon the scheme and repeal measures already in legislation as part of Mr Sunak’s plan to “stop the boats” crossing the English Channel.

But UK sources accused the UN of “double standards” because the international body already sends refugees to Rwanda.

The international panel was “deeply concerned about the introduction of legislative initiatives containing elements that discriminate against migrants and that seek to limit access to rights for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants”, such as the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

Rishi Sunak has been urged to abandon his Rwanda scheme by a United Nations human rights watchdog.

The committee said the law effectively amounts to an “asylum ban”.

The committee said the law, which is intended to stop people who arrive in the UK illegally from being able to stay here, effectively amounts to an “asylum ban”.

The human rights body said it “regrets” the Rwanda plan and the Government’s efforts to adopt the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill “despite the ruling of the UK Supreme Court that the arrangement would not be compliant with international law”.

The legislation, which is due to return to the Commons when MPs come back to Westminster following the Easter break on April 15, is designed to make the Rwanda plan legally watertight following the Supreme Court defeat.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill and a treaty with Kigali are aimed at addressing concerns about the scheme and the potential for people sent to the African nation to be removed to another country – a process known as refoulement – where they could face persecution.

The UN body said the Government should pull the legislation, or repeal it if passed by Parliament, “with a view to strictly upholding the principle of non-refoulement in both law and practice”.

A source close to Home Secretary James Cleverly dismissed the committee’s finding.

“It has always been the height of irony and double standards that one arm of the UN says it has concerns about Rwanda as a country and another arm of the same organisation continually and consistently uses Rwanda to house and process asylum seekers as a third-country destination and celebrates their deal with the Rwanda for doing so,” the source said.

UN refugee agency the UNHCR has evacuated people from Libya to Rwanda, but that is a temporary and voluntary scheme.