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Lords Want Rwanda Safeguards In Place Before Treaty Can Be Ratified

Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta signing the treaty in December (Alamy)

3 min read

An influential House of Lords committee has concluded that Rishi Sunak’s treaty declaring Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers should not be ratified until MPs are certain that the protections it aims to offer are in place.

The International Agreements Committee said in a new report published today that ministers should provide Parliament with more information to prove that the “legal and practical” steps needed to ensure Rwanda is a safe country for asylum seekers have been taken, before the treaty is agreed to by Parliament.

The IAC is a House of Lords committee that scrutinises all treaties that are laid before Parliament. The report on the treaty is due to be discussed in the Lords on Monday.  

While the treaty “might in time provide the basis” to be able to declare Rwanda safe, “as things stand the arrangements it provides for are incomplete,” their report released today has said. 

The treaty was signed by Home Secretary James Cleverly at the start of December after a Supreme Court ruling prevented the government from deporting illegal migrants to Rwanda – a key element of its Illegal Migration Bill – on human rights grounds. The treaty is a separate document to the legislation that is expected to be voted on in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.

Among measures included in the treaty, the IAC has highlighted a new asylum law in Rwanda system for ensuring that nobody is returned to a country where they could be in danger as elements that would need to already be in place before it can be ratified. 

Chair of the committee, Labour’s Lord Peter Goldsmith, said that “the Government should not ratify the Rwanda Treaty until Parliament is satisfied that the protections it provides have been fully implemented, since Parliament is being asked to make a judgement, based on the Treaty, that Rwanda is safe”.  

He added: “The Government should submit further information to Parliament in due course to confirm that the necessary legal and practical steps and training identified in this report, which underpin the protections provided for in the Treaty, have been put in place and bedded in. It should then allow for a further debate before proceeding to ratification.” 

Sunak is braced for a rebellion from his backbenches on the Safety of Rwanda Bill that accompanies the treaty when its gets its third reading in the Commons on Wednesday night. 

Dozens of Tories defied the government to back amendments on Tuesday, that they hope would toughen up the legislation and make it harder for people to launch legal challenges. 

In total, 58 Conservative MPs voted against the government last night, but only around 30 would need to rebel for the legislation to be defeated. 

Several who defied the government have said that they will back the bill at third reading, but critics have also been confirming that they will vote against. 

Former cabinet minister Simon Clarke wrote in the Telegraph today that he will vote against the bill because he does not “believe it will deliver”. 

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