The UK’s New Rwanda Asylum Treaty and Bill: What You Need to Know


The UK’s New Rwanda Asylum Treaty and Bill: What You Need to Know

The UK government recently signed a formal treaty with Rwanda and introduced legislation in an attempt to enable its controversial plan to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda. This comes after the Supreme Court deemed the initial Rwanda scheme unlawful on the grounds it breached the principle of non-refoulment. So what is in the new treaty and bill, and what happens next?

The treaty, signed on December 5th, differs materially from the previous agreement. As a formal treaty binding in international law, it will undergo parliamentary scrutiny. More importantly, it now includes significant new safeguards about the treatment of relocated individuals and handling of asylum claims. Critically, Rwanda cannot return people to any other country except the UK. There are also provisions for independent monitoring, best practice guidelines, and a new appeal process.

The accompanying bill tries to reverse the Supreme Court’s finding that Rwanda was not a safe country. It states all decision-makers must now treat Rwanda as safe, and restricts legal challenges on these grounds. The bill disapplies human rights law and other domestic legislation, meaning most grounds for challenge in UK courts are excluded. However, some limited grounds remain, like seeking a declaration of incompatibility with human rights law. There is also some scope for individual claims based on specific personal risk, but not relating to wider refoulment risks. Claimants can still go to the European Court of Human Rights, though the bill allows ministers to ignore interim measures from this court preventing removal.

So while the bill significantly curtails domestic court challenges if passed, questions remain. What if evidence emerges of systemic breaches of the treaty standards in Rwanda? Could arguments be made that parliament never intended to ignore grave human rights abuses? The Supreme Court emphasized the challenges in Rwanda changing its “culture” in the short term. Strasbourg could still intervene, and the government may resist compliance.

In short, while the treaty and bill represent a renewed effort to enable the Rwanda policy, considerable legal uncertainty remains along with questions around rights compliance. Parliamentary and likely on-going court skirmishes seem inevitable as the government tries to push ahead with this controversial approach in the face of widespread doubts.

With legal uncertainty remaining on the Rwanda deport flights, our director David Jones’ upcoming live online course Certification, Inadmissibility & the Rwanda Regime will no doubt provide valuable guidance.  The course will address hot topics such as case law and guidance on the existing clearly unfounded certification regime under section 94 NIAA 2002, The inadmissibility arrangements under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and Illegal Migration Act 2023 to name a few.

For more information or to book, visit our link here

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