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James Cleverly Signs New Treaty With Rwanda With Guarantee Refugees Won't Be Sent To Unsafe Countries

James Cleverly answered questions about the Rwanda scheme at a press conference (Alamy)

3 min read

UK Home Secretary James Cleverly signed a new treaty with Rwanda, which he believes will "amplify" the relationship between the two countries in the face of criticism from international bodies and courts.

Cleverly has been in Rwanda in his new role as home secretary to help solidify the government's asylum plan, which would see the UK forcibly deport migrants to have their claims processed in Rwanda. The treaty "reaffirms" Rwanda's commitment to protecting vulnerable people and addresses legal concerns associated with the scheme.

On 15 November, the Supreme Court ruled the scheme would be illegal, on the basis that there was a risk that Rwanda might send refugees back to their home countries where they might not be safe, and also voiced doubts over the Rwandan government's human rights record and the independence of their court systems.

The UK government has since said it has contingency measures, including a treaty with Rwanda and emergency legislation in Parliament.

Addressing a press conference in Rwanda, Cleverly insisted that Rwanda has "now established a strong reputation for the humane and a professional administration of refugees and migrants" and that this was "understood by the UK and the multilateral community".

"Rwanda has shown itself to be a strong and important partner to the UK," he said.

"I'm very proud that this treaty today amplifies that relationship and I am very much looking forward to continue working with you in my new role as Home Secretary."

He also confirmed that no new funding had been given to Rwanda as part of the treaty.

"Let me make it clear, the Rwandan government has not asked for and we have not provided any funding linked to the signing of this treaty," he said.

"Dealing with migration is important and it is not a cost free option, but we regard it as the right thing to do."

He added that in addition to the migration elements of this partnership, the economic development part would be "incredibly important" in order to address the long term drivers of mass migration.

Vincent Biruta, the Rwandan foreign minister also answered questions at the press conference, and said that Rwanda remained "very much committed" to the partnership with the UK despite delays and despite the Supreme Court ruling that Rwanda was not a safe country.

"This is the reason why we worked with our colleagues from the UK to address the concerns of the UK Supreme Court," Biruta said.

"While we thought they were unfounded or unfair, we work together just to address those concerns. So we don't have a plan to withdraw from this cooperation."

He added that his country had been "unfairly treated by international organisations, by the media and courts" and said that "those who are criticising us should bring up alternatives to the solution we're proposing".

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