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Outcry after UK law to deport migrants to Rwanda passed

Photo: Toby Melville Pool via Associated Press The British Parliament approved on the night of Monday to Tuesday the bill from the conservative government of Rishi Sunak allowing the expulsion of asylum seekers who entered the United Kingdom illegally.

Marie Heuclin – Agence France-Presse in London

Published yesterday at 10:05 a.m. Updated yesterday at 12:34 p.m.

  • Europe

From the UN to Christian churches, calls grew on Tuesday to urge the United Kingdom to stop deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, after Parliament adopted a law described as “historic” by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

After months of battle, the British Parliament approved this bill allowing the expulsion of applicants on the night of Monday to Tuesday asylum system entering the UK illegally, which must now receive the royal seal – a formality – before coming into force.

The Conservative government hopes to begin deportations “within 10 to 12 weeks”.

In the early hours, Rishi Sunak welcomed the adoption of “historic” legislation which “clearly establishes that if you come here illegally, you won't be able to stay.”

The UN has asked London to “reconsider its plan”, denouncing “increasingly restrictive” British laws that have eroded access to refugee protection” since 2022.

< p>The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, and his counterpart in charge of refugees, Filippo Grandi, called on the government “to instead take practical measures to combat irregular flows of refugees and migrants, on the basis of international cooperation and respect for international human rights law.”

Dangerous crossing< /h2>

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael O'Flaherty, denounced in this text an “attack on the independence of justice”.

The Council of Europe, which brings together 46 members, including the United Kingdom, is the depositary of the European Convention on Human Rights, in application of which the European Court of Human Rights had stopped at the last minute in June 2022 a first flight to Rwanda.

For its part, the Rwandan government said it was “impatient to welcoming people relocated to Rwanda” via this agreement which brings it tens of millions of euros.

The British Conservative government, struggling in the polls a few months before the legislative elections, has taken up the fight against immigration illegal a priority, and promised to “stop the boats” of migrants crossing the Channel illegally.

After a record in 2022 (45,000), then a decline in 2023 (nearly 30,000), more than 6,260 people have made the clandestine crossing on makeshift canoes since the start of the year, an increase of more than 20%.

As a reminder of the dangers of this journey through busy and very cold waters, five migrants, including a 4-year-old girl, died early Tuesday while trying to cross the Channel in a small boat that left from France with more than 110 people. on board.

Also read

  • British Parliament adopts bill on expulsion of migrants in Rwanda
  • Rishi Sunak gets the green light from MPs for his controversial plan to deport migrants


The project aims to expel migrants who arrived illegally, wherever they come from, to Rwanda, which will examine their asylum request. Whatever the outcome, they will not be able to return to the United Kingdom, which is counting on the deterrent effect of a measure without equivalent in Europe.

Backed by a new treaty between London and Kigali, the adopted text aimed to respond to the conclusions of the Supreme Court, which had judged the initial project illegal last November.

It defines the Rwanda as a safe country and provides that the government will be able to override possible injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights to prevent expulsions.

This project is a “national shame” and it “will leave a stain on the moral reputation of this country”, responded Amnesty International.

Leaders of Christian churches reiterated in a joint statement their “deep fears” about the precedent that this text establishes for the treatment of “the most vulnerable.”

The leader of the Labor opposition Keir Starmer, hot favorite to be the next prime minister, has crushed a “gadget” that “absolutely costs a fortune”.

While appeals are to be expected, Rishi Sunak assured Monday that the planes for Rwanda “will take off, whatever happens”.

The government has already reserved planes, mobilized hundreds of staff, notably judges, to quickly process possible appeals from illegal migrants, and released 2,200 detention places for them while waiting for their cases to be studied.

British law explained

What does this project consist of ?

Initially signed in April 2022 under the conservative government of Boris Johnson, the “partnership” with Kigali plans to deport migrants who arrived illegally on British soil to Rwanda, regardless of their origin.

The first were ready to take off for Rwanda in June 2022. The European Court of Human Rights then intervened and suspended its implementation at the very last minute.

Opponents consider the project contrary to international law and accuse it of being impossible to implement, immoral, complicated and expensive. Several appeals have been filed in court.

To date no plane has taken off to Rwanda.

Why was it introduced ?

Boris Johnson's government at the time insisted on the need to find new solutions due to the failure of the British asylum system to cope with the increase in immigration.

London is banking on this solution to deter migrants who cross the Channel aboard small inflatable boats.

More than 45,000 people made the crossing in 2022, a record. Their number has fallen to almost 30,000 in 2023, but it has increased by 20% since the start of the year compared to the same period last year, with more than 6,200 arrivals, according to a count by the AFP.

According to a parliamentary report, more than 67,000 asylum applications were submitted in 2023.

Rishi Sunak's government has made the fight against illegal immigration a priority.

Immigration was at the heart of the Brexit referendum debate in 2016 and the Conservatives are pushing the subject, before the elections expected this year, for which Labor is widely favored.

What did the Supreme Court say last year ?

Mid-November 2023, the highest British court ruled it illegal to send migrants to Rwanda, inflicting a severe snub on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The court ruled that the migrants were exposed to a risk of expulsion from Rwanda to their country of origin where they would risk persecution, which contravenes Article 3 of the European Convention on human rights law on torture and inhuman treatment, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory.

The government, however, reaffirmed its desire to continue its project and proposed a new text.

What does the law just passed say ?

To respond to the objections of the Supreme Court, the text adopted on the night of Monday to Tuesday defines Rwanda as a safe third country and prevents the return of migrants from Rwanda to their country of origin.

Kigali will be in charge of examining asylum requests from people sent by London. Whatever the outcome, they will not be able to return to the UK.

The text, backed by a new treaty between the two countries signed last December, also proposes not to apply certain sections of the British law on human rights to expulsions, in order to limit legal recourse .

The right wing of the Conservative Party would have wanted London to simply withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and other international conventions on human rights, to prevent all legal appeals from succeeding.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, 99.5% of migrants' appeals will fail with the new text.

Labour, which promised to replace this system, denounces in particular its cost. On Tuesday, Labor opposition MP in charge of immigration Yvette Cooper said it was “not a serious plan”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116