UK interior minister signs new Rwanda treaty to resurrect asylum plan

British Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta sign a new treaty, in Kigali, Rwanda, December 5, 2023. The treaty will address concerns by the Supreme Court, including assurances that Rwanda will not remove anybody transferred under the partnership to another country. Ben Birchall/Pool via REUTERS
James Cleverly

On Tuesday, the Minister of the Interior of the United Kingdom, James Cleverly, signed a new pact with Rwanda to circumvent a court judgment that had blocked the government’s contentious policy of transferring asylum seekers to the East African nation.

The Rwandan plan is at the core of the government’s attempt to reduce migration, and it is being closely monitored by other nations who are considered to be considering policies that are comparable to Rwanda’s.

In a decision handed down a month ago, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom stated that such a move would violate international human rights norms embedded in domestic legislation.

An assurance that Rwanda would not send asylum seekers to a nation where their life or freedom would be threatened is going to be included in the new treaty. This is one of the primary concerns of the court.

In addition, there will be a monitoring committee that will allow anyone to directly report complaints to them in a private manner, as well as a new appeal body comprising judges from many different countries.

They cleverly stated that there was no longer a “credible” reason to halt the deportation flights. This was because the treaty covered all of the points that the Supreme Court brought up, and Rwanda had not received any further funds from the previous memorandum of understanding to enhance the contract.

“I really hope that we can now move quickly,” Cleverly said at a news conference in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital province.

Several attorneys and charitable organizations have said that it is highly improbable that deportation flights will begin before the election. Despite having a double-digit lead in the polls, the opposition Labour Party intends to abandon the Rwanda strategy if it is victorious.

The United Kingdom aims to transfer thousands of asylum seekers who came to its beaches without authorization to Rwanda by the plan that was agreed upon the previous year. This discourages migrants from crossing the Channel from Europe in tiny boats.

In exchange, Rwanda has been given an initial payment of 140 million pounds, equivalent to 180 million dollars, along with the promise of additional funds to cover the costs of housing and medical treatment for any deported persons.

A great deal of pressure is being put on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to reduce net migration, which reached a record high of 745 thousand people in the previous year, with the vast majority of migrants entering through legal channels.

“Stop the boats” is one of the five goals that Sunak has set for his government. The influx of asylum seekers who pay people smugglers for their crossings of the Channel, which frequently take place in boats that are overloaded and not seaworthy, is one of the aims that Sunak has set.

The Supreme Court determined that the Rwanda plan should not be implemented because there was a possibility that refugees who were deported would have their claims incorrectly evaluated or that they would be sent back to their country of origin to suffer persecution.

In the latter part of this week, it is anticipated that the new treaty will be followed by the release of legislation declaring Rwanda a so-called safe nation. This law is intended to prevent legal challenges against the planned deportation flights.

Despite this, this will probably result in a fresh round of political and legal wrestling. Legal problems forced the cancellation of the maiden flight, which was supposed to take place during the summer of last year but was canceled at the very last minute.

An immigration attorney at Harbottle & Lewis named Sarah Gogan stated that the government’s policy will be challenged due to Rwanda’s history of violations of human rights provisions.

“Rwanda is an unsafe country, and this is not a quick fix,” added the politician. “You cannot, in a matter of weeks or months, reform a country and turn it into one with an impartial judiciary and administrative culture.”

Another “gimmick” was what Yvette Cooper, the spokesperson for the Labour Party’s home affairs department, called the most recent measures proposed by the administration.


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