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Rwanda Wouldn't Agree To Migrant Deal "Without Lawful Behaviour By The UK"


5 min read

Rwanda has said it would not have been able to continue with the deal to allow the UK to forcibly deport asylum seekers to the African country unless the UK complied with "lawful behaviour".

The UK Government published emergency legislation on Wednesday that will allow it to legally call Rwanda a safe country in order to enact the policy, which the Supreme Court has previously ruled does not comply with international law. 

Shortly after details of the bill were published, Rwanda's minister of foreign affairs Vincent Biruta released a statement underlining its own commitment to international law. 

"It has always been important to both Rwanda and the UK that our rule of law partnership meets the highest standards of international law, and it places obligations on both the UK and Rwanda to act lawfully," he said. 

"Without lawful behaviour by the UK, Rwanda would not be able to continue with the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to bring forward the “emergency” legislation after the Supreme Court last month upheld a decision by the Court of Appeal that the scheme might break international law.

Details of the legislation have hung in the balance since the court decision, with Sunak facing pressure from opposing wings of his party on whether the Rwanda plans should seek to override human rights treaties by unilaterally declaring Rwanda a safe country, or adapt to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling. 

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick quit in the hours following the legislation being published, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told MPs. There had been intense speculation over Jenrick's position. 

According to text of the bill published on Wednesday evening, “every decision maker must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country”. A note by Cleverly accompanying the bill said that he cannot guarantee that the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill is compliant with the European Convention of Human Rights, but that ministers intend to proceed with them regardless. 

The proposals outline the plans to disapply the Human Rights Act, and state that ministers will be the only figures who can decide whether or not to comply if the European Court on Human Rights intervenes in the case of a person being removed to Rwanda.

The legislation appears to acknowledge that it may be challenged by international courts and “interim measures” may be put forward by the European Court of Human Rights. 

However, it says that “it is for a Minister of the Crown (and only a Minister of the Crown) to decide whether the United Kingdom will comply with the interim measure”. 

Further to this, the new laws will mean that courts or tribunals “must not have regard” to any such interim measures "when considering any application or appeal which relates to a decision to remove the person to the Republic of Rwanda".

Shortly after the Bill's publication, Sunak said that “it is Parliament that should decide who comes to this country, not criminal gangs”. 

He said the new “landmark” legislation will “control our borders, deter people taking perilous journeys across the channel, end the continuous legal challenges filling our courts”. 

Addressing the Commons on Wednesday, Cleverly described the bill as "lawful [...] fair and [...] necessary" and told MPs that the concerns of the Supreme Court have been "conclusively answered" by the new legislation.

"This is a partnership to which we and Rwanda are both completely committed. Rwanda is a safe and prosperous country, it is a vital partner for the UK and our treaty puts beyond legal doubt the safety of Rwanda," he added. 

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described the policy as "total chaos" and accused the government of being unable to "defend our border security, they can't solve their broken asylum system, and they can't hold their party together". 

"They do not deserve to run the country. Britain deserves better than this," she told MPs in an impassioned speech.  

Sunak will hope that the legislation does enough to keep his backbenches happy, with factions in the centre and on the right of the party having fired warning shots already this week. 

He is addressing the 1922 committee of backbench MPs on Wednesday evening and among those seen attending the meeting were former prime minister and home secretary Theresa May who has fiercely argued for retaining human rights obligations, and Damian Green, chair of the One Nation caucus of moderate Tory MPs, who last night warned that ministers should "think twice" before overriding the ECHR.  

Today, the caucus "welcomed" the legislation and ministers' “decision to continue to meet the UK’s international commitments which uphold the rule of law.

They added: "We will be taking legal advice from the former Solicitor-General Lord Garnier about concerns and the practicalities of the Bill.”

MPs on the right of the party gathered in Parliament on Tuesday night to discuss their planned response, and ERG (European Research Group) chairman Mark Francois told Sky News it would be “unwise” to bounce MPs into backing the plans.

But as well as appeasing those on the right of the party, Sunak must ensure any legislation is accepted by those at its centre, who have warned the government should “think twice” before making changes that could overrule the European Convention on Human Rights.

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