New treaty signed to send asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda

Source: africanews 

Three weeks after the rejection of a previous project, London and Kigali signed a new treaty in Rwanda on Tuesday, aimed at resurrecting a controversial agreement to deport migrants arriving illegally in the UK to the East African country.

The British government is trying to salvage this flagship measure of its policy against illegal immigration, after the mid-November slap in the face by the British Supreme Court, which confirmed that its project was illegal as it stood.

The new agreement was signed in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, by British Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta.

“We have pursued this partnership with the UK because we believe we have a role to play in this illegal immigration crisis”, Vincent Biruta assured a press conference, when James Cleverly declared he had “immense admiration for the Rwandan government, which has received a lot of criticism”.

The new treaty “responds directly to the findings of the Supreme Court and presents a new long-term solution”, says the British Home Office in a statement.

The 43-page text, which is “binding” under international law, ensures that migrants deported to Rwanda “will not be at risk of being returned to a country where their life or liberty would be threatened”.

The agreement also includes the establishment of “a joint tribunal with Rwandan and British judges in Kigali to ensure that migrants’ safety is guaranteed and that none of the migrants sent to Rwanda are deported back to their country”, stressed Rwandan government deputy spokesman Alain Mukuralinda at the press conference. “And it will also ensure that all migrants’ complaints are listened to”, he continued.

The text must now be ratified by the British and Rwandan parliaments.

– Safe country” –

Before initialing the agreement, the new Home Office boss visited the site of the Rwandan genocide memorial.

“It is clear that Rwanda is a safe country, and we are working at a fast pace to take this partnership forward to stop boats crossing the Channel and save lives,” James Cleverly was quoted as saying.

On November 15, the British High Court rejected an appeal by Rishi Sunak’s government, ruling that the Court of Appeal was right to conclude that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country.

Immediately after the British Supreme Court’s decision, Kigali stated that it “disputes the decision that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees”.

Rwanda has been ruled de facto with an iron fist since 1994 by Paul Kagame.

London must “open its eyes to Rwanda’s history of human rights abuses, particularly against refugees and asylum seekers (…) and abandon once and for all its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda”, urged Yasmine Ahmed, UK director for the NGO Human Rights Watch.

– Blocked” –

Since the start of the year, 29,705 people have arrived via the English Channel in small boats, according to an AFP count.

“I’m fed up with our policy with Rwanda being blocked”, said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in an interview with The Sun on Monday evening.

In addition to the treaty, the British government will introduce “emergency legislation” in Parliament to designate Rwanda as a safe country and thus “put an end to this merry-go-round”, he added.

Following the setback inflicted by the British magistrates, the Interior Minister had defended Rwanda’s “miraculous transformation” and said he had perceived in some of the critics “lazy attitudes because it’s an African country”.

Largely outpaced in the polls by the opposition Labour Party in the run-up to next year’s general election, the Conservative government is striving to take a firm line on reducing both legal and illegal immigration.

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