Controversial bill allowing UK to send certain asylum-seekers to Rwanda approved

The controversial legislation allowing the United Kingdom government to deport certain asylum-seekers to Rwanda has been approved on Tuesday. Deportation flights are anticipated to commence during the upcoming summer.

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill successfully made its way through the U.K. Parliament, following an extensive eight-hour overnight debate. With this milestone, the bill is now on track to receive royal assent and become law. The primary objective of this legislation is to discourage unauthorized migrants from entering the U.K. through small boats and subsequently seeking asylum upon arrival. After facing a two-month delay in Parliament, various amendments were proposed and rejected by lawmakers in both houses.

The U.K. Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has referred to the bill as “landmark legislation” and has made a commitment that the initial flights transporting unauthorized migrants to Rwanda, where their asylum requests will undergo processing, will commence within a timeframe of 10 to 12 weeks.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sunak expressed the intention behind the Rwanda Bill, which aims to discourage vulnerable migrants from undertaking dangerous crossings and dismantle the operations of criminal gangs that exploit them. He emphasized that the passing of this legislation will send a strong message that illegal entry will not be tolerated and that those who come to the country unlawfully will not be able to remain. Sunak is resolute in ensuring that nothing will hinder their efforts to achieve this goal and ultimately save lives.

According to Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo, Rwanda is delighted by the U.K. Parliament’s approval of the bill and eagerly anticipates welcoming those relocated to Kigali.

In a statement on Tuesday, Makolo emphasized that despite the recent allegations, the fundamental truth remains unchanged: Rwanda has been diligently striving over the past three decades to create a safe and secure environment for both its citizens and foreigners.

In 2022, former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the idea of having illegal migrants with asylum applications that were “deemed inadmissible by the U.K.” flown to Rwanda through a multimillion-dollar partnership with the Rwandan government. However, the deportation flights were blocked by the U.K. Supreme Court in November due to concerns over the government’s inability to ensure the safety of those being transferred to Rwanda.

The U.K. took action by signing a new treaty with Rwanda, which aimed to enhance the safety and protection for migrants. In December, they introduced proposed legislation that designates Rwanda as a “safe” country for asylum-seekers.

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, top officials from the United Nations have urged the U.K. to reconsider its plan, cautioning that it will have a detrimental effect on human rights and the protection of refugees.

“The recently introduced legislation represents another departure from the longstanding tradition of the United Kingdom in offering sanctuary to individuals in dire circumstances, thereby violating the Refugee Convention,” stated Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner for refugees at the United Nations. He emphasized that safeguarding the rights of refugees necessitates the commitment of all nations, not only those in close proximity to conflict zones. This arrangement aims to transfer the responsibility for refugee protection, undermining global cooperation and establishing a concerning precedent.”

“This new legislation seriously undermines the rule of law in the U.K. and sets a dangerous precedent worldwide by shifting responsibility for refugees, limiting the U.K. courts’ ability to review removal decisions, restricting access to legal remedies, and reducing both domestic and international human rights protections for a specific group of people,” emphasized Volker Türk, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. He emphasized the importance of protecting the human rights and dignity of refugees and migrants seeking protection, stating that all removals from the U.K. must be conducted after thoroughly assessing their individual circumstances in full compliance with international human rights and refugee law.”

Just hours after the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill was approved, French authorities made an announcement on Tuesday. They revealed that five individuals, including a child, lost their lives in an attempt to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K.

British Minister of State for Countering Illegal Migration, Michael Tomlinson, has stated that the U.K. government is fully prepared to tackle any legal challenges that may arise as a result of the new policy.

“We will witness the deterrent effect kick in once we get the flights off the ground,” Tomlinson stated during his interview with BBC News on Tuesday.

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