Horst D. Deckert

British MPs Pass Bill to Deport Asylum Seekers to Rwanda

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Flights to the African nation can commence within 12 weeks, the Home Office has said.

The British Parliament passed the Safety of Rwanda Bill on Monday, allowing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to deport thousands of asylum seekers to the East African nation. The legislation, which faced strong opposition in the House of Lords and Commons over human rights concerns, will now become law, the UK government has confirmed.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Home Office said the parliamentary approval marked a “major step forward” for Britain’s efforts to “stop the boats and tackle illegal migration.”

“The Bill’s passing means the government can enter the final phase of operational planning to get flights off the ground to Rwanda, pioneering a new response to the global challenge of illegal migration,” it said.

Britain reached a five-year agreement with Rwanda in April 2022 for illegal immigrants to be sent to the landlocked nation. However, no flights have happened since the first one was canceled in June of the same year following intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The scheme has also been declared unlawful by the UK’s highest court, which has deemed Rwanda unsafe for deportees.

Late last year, Sunak’s government introduced the Safety of Rwanda Bill to promote the country as a safe haven for refugees and to block further court challenges to the plan. Conservative MPs had called for it to be amended to override laws that challenge the swift removal of illegal migrants crossing the English Channel. However, the UN and the British Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights declared the draft law illegal, claiming it would cause irreparable harm to the UK’s reputation. The House of Lords has previously supported a motion urging parliament not to ratify it.

Read more ‘A violation of human rights’: Will the UK government get away with deporting asylum seekers to Africa?

In response to the approval on Tuesday, the Home Office said the “landmark” legislation makes it “unambiguously clear that UK Parliament is sovereign and the validity of any Act of Parliament is unaffected by international law.” It also means that Rwanda will now be considered a “safe country for the purposes of relocating people, including in UK courts and tribunals,” it added.

According to the statement, “robust operational plans” have been put in place to deliver the first flight to Rwanda within 10 to 12 weeks, followed by multiple flights.

The Home Office reportedly has a reduced list of 350 migrants who are believed to pose the least risk of submitting successful legal challenges against their deportation.

Lawyers cited by The Guardian said they would file legal challenges on behalf of individual asylum seekers on a case-by-case basis, possibly removing them from a flight list.


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