UK inks new Rwanda asylum treaty, describes it as model for EU states

UK inks new Rwanda asylum treaty, describes it as model for EU states |

The UK moved on Tuesday (5 November) to salvage its cash for asylum seekers’ agreement with Rwanda by signing a new treaty with the East African country, while ministers hope that the revised pact will be a model for collaboration on migration control with EU states. 

The treaty was made necessary after the UK Supreme Court ruled last month that a previous agreement to send asylum seekers to Rwanda left them at risk of being unlawfully returned to their country of origin. 

Under an agreement brokered by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, asylum seekers would be flown from the UK to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be assessed.

However, a series of legal challenges resulted in a Supreme Court ruling in November that decided that there was a real risk of claims being wrongly determined in Rwanda, resulting in asylum seekers being returned to their country of origin, a process known as ‘refoulement’, which is against international law. 

Signed in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, on Tuesday by UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and his counterpart Vincent Biruta, the new treaty includes legal safeguards on human rights to address the Court ruling but is very likely to face fresh legal challenges.

Rishi Sunak’s government will also need to rewrite the migration control bill that put the Rwanda deal into law and push it through the UK parliament. 

At a joint press conference with Biruta, Cleverly denied that Rwanda would receive more money on top of the £140 million already committed to the scheme by the UK.  

EU officials are also understood to have privately urged the UK not to backtrack on international human rights agreements, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Refugee Convention.

Following November’s Court ruling, pressure has increased on Sunak, who has promised to put the deal with Rwanda at the heart of his government’s plans to restrict migration to take the UK out of the convention. 

In a statement accompanying the treaty, the UK government said that “the Treaty also charts a rights-based path for similar collaboration with and between other countries.” 

“Countries across Europe are now also exploring third country models for illegal immigration – including Austria, Germany, Denmark and Italy in their deal with Albania, a new and innovative model for processing asylum claims,” the statement adds. 

That is likely to raise eyebrows in Brussels, where the European Commission has repeatedly stated that EU law prevents asylum claims from being outsourced to third countries, though Italy and other member states are looking at ways to get around this legal loophole.   

“Rwanda is a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees. It has a strong history of protecting those that need it, hosting over 135,000 asylum seekers who have found sanctuary there,” said Cleverly. 

“The Supreme Court recognised that changes may be delivered which would address their conclusions – this Treaty responds directly to that,” he added. 

Read more with EURACTIV

UK inks new Rwanda asylum treaty, describes it as model for EU states |

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