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Controversial UK Rwanda bill 'incompatible with human rights obligations'

Controversial UK Rwanda bill 'incompatible with human rights obligations'

The UK government's latest legislation to revive its controversial plan to send migrants to Rwanda is "not compatible" with the country's rights obligations, a damning report published on Monday has found.

Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights ruled in their report that if the UK were to go ahead with its plan, it risks "untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights internationally."

"Stopping the boats" has been one of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's flagship policies. It involves sending migrants crossing the Channel by small boat being deported to Rwanda, in Africa.

But the bill has been marred by controversies, delays and rebels from within the PM's own Conservative party.

Last November, the UK Supreme Court found Rwanda was not a safe country to which UK asylum seekers could be forcibly removed.

The Supreme Court said it had been informed by international bodies that asylum seekers and refugees deported there would face a real risk of human rights abuses.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference March 7, 2023.
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a press conference March 7, 2023. - Leon Neal/WPA Rota

The current version of the bill states Rwanda is in fact a safe country and that anyone sent there by the UK government will not be forcibly removed to an unsafe country. It is unclear whether this can be guaranteed in practice, the report found.

Another issue surrounded the bill's limiting of appeals, with the report's authors saying it breached Article 13 of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) - the right to an effective remedy.

This right enshrines the right to appeal if one's human rights and freedoms are violated, and says avenues for appeal should be easily accessible.

The report also attacked allowing ministers to decide whether or not to adhere to rulings of the ECHR over deportations, saying the measure "openly invites the possibility of the UK breaching international law."

“This Bill is designed to remove vital safeguards against persecution and human rights abuses, including the fundamental right to access a court," said the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Joanna Cherry QC MP.

"Hostility to human rights is at its heart and no amendments can salvage it.

"This isn’t just about the rights and wrongs of the Rwanda policy itself. By taking this approach, the Bill risks untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights internationally," she continued.

"Human rights aren’t inconvenient barriers that must be overcome to reach policy goals, they are fundamental protections that ensure individuals are not harmed by Government action. If a policy is sound it should be able to withstand judicial scrutiny, not run away from it.”

The human rights committee itself features five Conservative lawmakers among its 12 members. The ruling is another blow to Sunak, who has faced unsteady political standing over the last few months.

Sunak has vowed to press ahead. He faces an uphill battles to win a general election later this year, following polls that said voters were ambivalent about his Conservative party as well as the Labour opposition taking over the next government.