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Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

  • Context (IE): The Rwanda Bill was passed by the UK to counter a challenge raised by the British Supreme Court against a controversial deportation policy.

What was the policy?

  • UK government plans for deporting undocumented immigrants to the East African nation of Rwanda.
  • Rwanda plan aims to reduce illegal migration and net migration numbers in the UK.

Rwanda Bill - PMF IAS

Need for such a policy

  • Rising migrant population: The number of migrants arriving in Britain on small boats soared to 45,774 in 2022 from just 299 four years earlier.
  • Domestic elections: UK elections are due in 2025, and such a policy is seen as a popular measure.

Main provisions of the bill

  • Under the Bill, asylum seekers deemed to have illegally entered its territories after January 1, 2022, can be sent to Rwanda for “processing”.
  • Crucially, irrespective of whether an asylum seeker is found to be “genuine” or not, they cannot return to the UK and must opt for settlement in either Rwanda or another country.
  • The bill was introduced to respond to the UK’s Supreme Court’s concerns and allow Parliament to confirm the Republic of Rwanda’s status as a safe third country.

Why Rwanda was chosen?

Rwanda Map - PMF IAS

  • Other nations were dismissed as unviable or rejected by the host country.
  • Rwanda was always the most promising country that agreed to strike the deal.
  • Earlier in 2021, Denmark agreed to a “memorandum of understanding” with Rwanda, which was referred to as a possible “precursor to a subsequent transfer agreement”.
  • Rwanda currently hosts more than 135,000 refugees and asylum seekers, and it is claimed that their rights are “protected under various laws“.

Criticism of the Rwanda Plan

  • Human rights issue: Rwanda’s poor human rights record raised questions of safety.
  • Freedom of criticism: Allegedly, the Rwandan government is intolerant to criticism.
  • Not whole rights: Rights given to asylum seekers are limited. It could be difficult for them to make independent lives for themselves.
  • Refoulement policy in Rwanda: Rwanda has a record of the practice of sending migrants back to their unsafe home countries.
  • Economic burden: The UK will bear the cost, so a huge sum of public money will be spent.
  • Domestic opposition in the UK: Opposition parties refer to the plan as an “unworkable, unethical and extortionate policy“.
  • Legal issues: The UK Supreme Court ruling in 2023 declared the policy was illegal.
  • Commodity treatment: UNHCR argues that asylum seekers should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.
  • Shifting the responsibilities: Arrangements without proper safeguards simply shift the asylum responsibilities and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention.
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