UK Passes Controversial Rwanda Bill that Tackles Illegal Migration

| April 26, 2024
UK Passes Controversial Rwanda Bill that Tackles Illegal Migration

The United Kingdom (UK) Parliament has passed a controversial anti-illegal migration bill allowing the government to deport migrants to Africa.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill completed its passage through the UK Parliament on 22 April 2024.

It aims to deter illegal migrants from risking crossing the English Channel to come to the UK.

“The passing of this landmark legislation is not just a step forward but a fundamental change in the global equation on migration,” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

He underlined that the Bill sends a clear message to illegal migrants that “if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay.”

King Charles is expected to grant Royal Assent to the Bill in the next few days, making it a law.

Even after its passage, human rights activists and migrant groups have vowed to continue the fight against the soon-to-be UK policy.

They claimed that the Rwanda Bill is unethical and inhumane to send migrants to a country they don’t want to live in.

What is the Safety of Rwanda Bill?

The Safety of Rwanda Bill is part of Prime Minister Sunak’s plan to stop the boats carrying illegal migrants into the UK.

Furthermore, it aims to dismantle the business model of criminal organizations that facilitate such journeys for undocumented immigrants.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats reached a record high of 46,000 in 2022, from just 299 four years earlier.

Many people who arrive in the UK via small boats apply for asylum, and the government has granted it to many in the past.

However, the conservative government argued that boat migrants should not be treated as refugees since they did not seek asylum in the first safe country they reached, like France.

In April 2022, the UK made a deal with Rwanda to send stowaways and boat migrants to East Africa.

Should these illegal migrants seek asylum in the UK, the government will assess their claim while they stay in Rwanda.

If their asylum claims are successful, these migrants will stay in the East African country.

Implementing the Safety of Rwanda Bill

The Bill’s passing means the government can begin operational planning for flights bringing illegal migrants to Rwanda.

“Our focus is to now get flights off the ground, and I am clear that nothing will stand in our way of doing that and saving lives,’ Prime Minister Sunak said.

Home Secretary James Cleverly revealed, “Plans are well underway to begin flights [to Rwanda] within 10 to 12 weeks.”

This involves having an airfield on standby and securing commercial charter planes for specific flights.

The government had also increased the capacity of a detention facility to accommodate up to 2,000 individuals.

It also prepares 200 trained caseworkers and allocates 25 courtrooms to expedite claims and legal proceedings.

There are also 500 highly trained individuals waiting to escort illegal migrants to Rwanda.

An additional 300 people are completing training to be ready in the coming weeks.

Hurdles to passing the Safety of Rwanda Bill

Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson first proposed the idea of deporting illegal migrants to Rwanda in 2022.

However, the European Court of Human Rights blocked the UK government’s attempt to deport individuals to Rwanda in June 2022.

The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that Rwanda is not a safe third country to which migrants can be sent.

Supreme Court judges said deporting migrants to the East African country exposes the migrants to “real risk of ill-treatment.”

This was because the Rwandan government could send migrants back to the home countries where they had fled.

The East African country also has little experience with asylum procedures for migrants from the UK and worldwide.

To address this, the UK and Rwanda signed an internationally binding treaty in December 2023 to strengthen the protection of migrants.

It ensured that Rwanda would not send migrants deported from the UK back to their home country or any other unsafe country.

Under the treaty, Rwanda has also introduced a strengthened end-to-end asylum system.

This includes a specialized tribunal dedicated to hearing individual appeals against rejected asylum claims.

The treaty also empowers the Monitoring Committee to set priority areas and ensure compliance.

What it means for illegal migrants coming to the UK

With the Safety of Rwanda Bill passed, it will be harder for migrants to challenge deportation.

The Bill also allows the British government to ignore injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights that could block deportations.

However, despite the UK Parliament’s approval of the legislation, the Rwanda Bill may still face legal challenges and delay the deportation.

Top United Nations (UN) officials released a joint statement on 22 April urging the UK to reconsider its Rwanda deportation plan.

As per ABC News, the UN warned it is “in breach of the Refugee Convention” and will have a “harmful impact” on human rights and refugee protection.