UK MPs and Lords call on government to ‘reconsider’ Rwanda deal

Government committee raises number of concerns, including that the UK was 'outsourcing' its obligations under the Refugee Convention

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel, pictured, warning of safety concerns and questioning the legality of the Rwandan deal. PA
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The Joint Committee on Human Rights comprising MPs and peers has called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to “reconsider” a plan to send migrants to Rwanda.

The committee has written to Ms Patel warning of safety concerns and questioning the legality of the deal.

“The Joint Committee on Human Rights hopes that the government will demonstrate commitment to human rights and the protection of refugees and reconsider the UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP),” Joanna Cherry said in the letter, dated July 21 and published on Monday.

She said the JCHR was “concerned that the agreement has been put in place without adequate assurances as to the safety of those removed to Rwanda".

“Removing asylum seekers to a state where they face a real risk of serious human rights abuses, or of being sent on to a dangerous third country as a result of an inadequate asylum system, is inconsistent with the UK’s human rights obligations," the letter said.

“While we have received mixed reports on the safety of Rwanda, particularly for vulnerable groups, and the adequacy of its asylum system, we are not satisfied that it is a sufficiently safe destination to be a partner in this kind of asylum agreement.”

The agreement could be seen as “outsourcing of the UK’s own obligations under the Refugee Convention to another country”, it added.

The committee said it shared the Home Office’s desire to curb the number of Channel crossings, but said it was “unconvinced” the plan is an “appropriate, or indeed effective, way to achieve this aim”.

The MPs and peers also warned it was “unclear” from evidence heard by the committee so far whether those selected to be sent to Rwanda will have “adequate opportunity to challenge their removal.”

Last week, a High Court hearing revealed the Foreign Office advised the UK government against sending asylum seekers to the east African nation and that the country had been accused of recruiting refugees for military conflicts.

But Rwandan government officials defended their human rights record and said the information was inaccurate.

The first deportation flight was grounded in June after a series of legal challenges, and another attempt has not yet been scheduled.

Both governments have insisted the plan is legally sound.

The letter comes after the UK's Commons Home Affairs Committee found there was “no evidence” the Rwanda policy was acting as a deterrent.

More than 15,300 people have reached the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France in small boats such as dinghies since the start of this year, according to provisional government figures.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 8:31 PM