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No matter our backgrounds, family circumstances, or who we vote for, most of us want to live in a society where everyone is cared for and treated with respect.

So today we’ve joined 250+ charities and organisations to call on the House of Lords to reject the shameful Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

Joint civil society statement on the Rwanda Bill for Second Reading in the House of Lords, January 2024

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill is a constitutionally extraordinary and deeply harmful piece of legislation. It threatens the universality of human rights and is likely in breach of international law, striking a serious blow to the UK’s commitment to the rule of law. It was not a Government manifesto commitment – on the contrary, it will hinder the UK’s ability to “continue to grant asylum and support to refugees fleeing persecution”. As a coalition of more than 260 organisations working in and across the UK, we call on Peers to reject the Bill at Second Reading.

The Rwanda Bill undermines the principle that human rights are universal – that they apply to all of us, regardless of where we are from. Going even further than recent Government legislation such as the Illegal Migration Act (IMA), the Rwanda Bill disapplies key aspects of our Human Rights Act (HRA) which include basic, minimum standards that exist to protect us all. This will create a two-tiered system of human rights protection, where adults and children seeking safety who are threatened with removal to Rwanda will not have the full protections of the HRA to enforce their rights in domestic courts.

The Rwanda Bill is an attack on the constitutional role of the judiciary and the rule of law. The Bill legislates something that has been authoritatively found to be false by the Supreme Court and requires it to be treated as true in perpetuity. Even if a court heard overwhelming evidence that Rwanda was unsafe, it would be required to ignore the facts in front of them to “conclusively” treat Rwanda as a safe country. If the Government is so confident about the legality of the new Rwanda treaty, it should not fear independent oversight by domestic courts. If Parliament validates legislating legal fictions in this way, it would set a dangerous precedent for future governments – a threat to rights protections for all. Moreover, the Bill severely restricts grounds for resisting government decisions and domestic court remedies. Limiting access to justice in this way is an erosion of the principle that we are all equal before the law.

The Bill puts the UK on a direct collision course with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Its cover contains an extraordinary statement – that the Government cannot say that it complies with the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In particular, the Bill expands powers given to Ministers in the IMA to ignore interim measures of the ECtHR and that Act’s prohibition on UK courts having regard to an interim measure when considering any application/appeal relating to removal to Rwanda. Interim measures are a life-saving tool that allow the ECtHR in exceptional circumstances to place a temporary stop on an action where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm, to allow time for a full judgment to take place. They are binding on the Government under international law. Giving a Minister legislative validation in ignoring them is a deeply concerning green light to the breaking of international law and erodes the UK’s commitment to the Convention. The Government itself admits in its ECHR memorandum that using the power would likely breach the ECHR.

The Bill also reneges on other international commitments. In particular, it risks violating the principle of non-refoulement, which the Supreme Court found has been given effect by multiple international treaties to which the UK is a party (including the Refugee Convention and UN Convention Against Torture). The Rwanda scheme is an attempt by the UK Government to shirk its obligations to consider asylum claims and support those granted protection as part of the international refugee protection system. Even more alarmingly, the Bill states that the Government and courts should treat Rwanda as a safe country, regardless of “any interpretation of international law by the court or tribunal”. This extreme provision will damage the UK’s international reputation and ability to hold other states to account for human rights abuses.

The Rwanda Bill will breach the Belfast/Good Friday Peace Agreement (B/GFA) and Article 2 of the Windsor Framework. The B/GFA commits the UK Government to “complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the ECHR, with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly legislation on grounds of inconsistency.” These safeguards, as well as the Government’s Windsor Framework commitment to ‘no diminution of rights in Northern Ireland’, will be violated by proposals in the Bill which directly restrict domestic access to the courts, remove remedies for breaches of the Convention, and reduce the rights of refugees below the standards set by the ECHR and other relevant international law.

 

Either we all have human rights, or none of us do. The Government must not be allowed to pick and choose when our fundamental rights apply, nor to undermine the ways that we can hold it to account.

  1. ACES
  2. Action Foundation
  3. African Rainbow Family
  4. Agenda Alliance
  5. All Out
  6. Alzheimer Scotland
  7. Amina MWRC
  8. Amnesty Bourneville
  9. Amnesty International UK
  10. Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)
  11. Anti-Slavery International
  12. Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group
  13. Art27 CIC
  14. Art27 Scotland
  15. Article 39
  16. Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees
  17. Asylum Link Merseyside
  18. Asylum Matters
  19. Asylum Support Appeals Project
  20. Bail for Immigration Detainees
  21. Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile
  22. Baptist Union of Wales
  23. Baptists Together
  24. BARAC UK
  25. Basis Yorkshire
  26. Become
  27. Best for Britain
  28. BIASAN
  29. Birmingham City of Sanctuary
  30. Birmingham Community Hosting Network (BIRCH)
  31. Birthrights
  32. Blaksox
  33. Bloody Good Period
  34. Boaz Trust
  35. Bradford and Shipley TUC
  36. Bradford City of Sanctuary
  37. Bridges Programmes
  38. British Association of Social Workers
  39. Bromsgrove and Redditch Welcome Refugees
  40. C-Change Scotland
  41. Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign
  42. CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers)
  43. Cardiff University
  44. Care4Calais
  45. Carers Trust Scotland
  46. Caritas Cardiff
  47. Caritas Shrewsbury
  48. Carlisle One World Centre
  49. Carlisle Refugee Action Group
  50. Central England Law Centre
  51. Cheshire, Halton & Warrington Race & Equality Centre
  52. Children in Scotland
  53. Children’s Parliament
  54. Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law
  55. Circles Network
  56. Citizens Advice Newcastle
  57. City of Sanctuary Sheffield
  58. City of Sanctuary UK
  59. Civil Society Alliance
  60. Close the Gap
  61. Common space Common
  62. Community Integration and Advocacy Centre (CIAC)
  63. Community Policy Forum
  64. Compassion in Politics
  65. Conversation Group Newcastle
  66. Coram Children’s Legal Centre
  67. Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre
  68. Derby Stand up to Racism
  69. Derbyshire LGBT+
  70. Distribute Aid
  71. Doctors of the World UK
  72. Ecojustice Ireland
  73. ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking)
  74. Edinburgh City Mission
  75. Edmund Rice England
  76. Elmbridge CAN
  77. End Violence Against Women Coalition
  78. ENTRAIDE
  79. ESAScotland
  80. Equality Network
  81. Equally Ours
  82. Fair Vote UK
  83. Faith & the Environment Lincolnshire Group
  84. Faith in Older People
  85. Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
  86. FODI
  87. forRefugees
  88. Forth Valley Migrant Support Network
  89. Freedom from Torture
  90. Friends of the Earth (England Wales and Northern Ireland)
  91. furness multicultural community forum
  92. Furness Refugee Support
  93. GARAS
  94. Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
  95. Glasgow Disability Alliance
  96. Glitter Cymru
  97. Global Justice Now
  98. Global Link
  99. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit
  100. Growing Together Levenshulme
  101. Hackney Stand Up to Racism
  102. Haringey Welcome
  103. Hastings Community of Sanctuary
  104. Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)
  105. Heanor Baptist Church
  106. Helen Bamber Foundation
  107. Herts for Refugees
  108. HIAS+JCORE
  109. Hope for Justice
  110. Human Rights Consortium Scotland
  111. Human Rights Watch
  112. Humanist Society Scotland
  113. Humanists UK
  114. Humans for rights network
  115. Ice and Fire Theatre
  116. Idaraya life CIC
  117. Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association
  118. Inclusion North CIC
  119. INQUEST
  120. International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
  121. Iraqi Association
  122. Islington Law Centre
  123. JCT – Joining Communities Together
  124. Jesuit Refugee Service UK
  125. Joanna Project
  126. Juno Women’s Aid
  127. Just Fair
  128. Just Futures Centre for Child, Youth, Family and Community Research, University of Huddersfield
  129. JustRight Scotland
  130. Kids in Need of Defense UK
  131. Latin American Women’s Rights Service
  132. Law Centres Network
  133. Learn for Life Enterprise
  134. Leeds Destitute Asylum-Seekers Support
  135. LeedsTransVoice
  136. Legal Aid Practitioners Group
  137. LGBT Health and Wellbeing
  138. LGBT Youth Scotland
  139. Liberty
  140. Lichfield Quaker Meeting, Staffordshire
  141. London Friend
  142. Louth Churches for Refugees
  143. Macc
  144. Magic for Smiles
  145. Making Rights Real
  146. Manchester BME Network CIC
  147. Manchester City of Sanctuary
  148. Manchester Migrant Solidarity
  149. Manchester Refugee Support Network
  150. MAP MIDDLESBROUGH
  151. Maryhill Integration Network
  152. Medical Justice
  153. Mermaids
  154. Merseyside Solidarity Knows No Borders
  155. Metropolitan Community Church of North London
  156. METRO Charity
  157. Micro Rainbow CIC
  158. Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU)
  159. Migrants Organise
  160. Migrants’ Rights Network
  161. Muslim Council of Britain
  162. NACCOM
  163. National AIDS Trust
  164. National Autistic Taskforce
  165. National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW)
  166. New Europeans UK
  167. New to the UK (Churches Together in North Shields)
  168. Newcastle City Council
  169. Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum (NNRF)
  170. Oldham Unity
  171. One Life To Live
  172. One Roof Leicester
  173. Open Door North East
  174. Our Second Home
  175. Outside the Box
  176. Parenting Across Scotland
  177. Participation and the Practice of Rights
  178. Partners in Advocacy
  179. .Pendle New Neighbours
  180. PERN Penrith and Eden Refugee Network
  181. Phoenix Care Group
  182. Plan International UK
  183. Planning Democracy
  184. Positive Action For Refugees and Asylum Seekers (PAFRAS)
  185. Praxis
  186. Public Law Project
  187. Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network
  188. Quakers in Britain
  189. Rainbow Haven
  190. Rainbow Migration
  191. Rape Crisis Scotland
  192. RealisingRights
  193. Reclaim the Agenda
  194. REDRESS Trust
  195. Refugee Action
  196. Refugee Council
  197. Refugee Education UK
  198. Refugee Welcome Homes
  199. René Cassin
  200. ReportOUT
  201. Restore, a project of Birmingham Churches Together
  202. Rethink Rebuild Society
  203. Right to Remain
  204. Rights & Choices (Women’s Support Project)
  205. Rights of Women
  206. Safe Passage International
  207. SAYiT
  208. Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
  209. Scottish Refugee Council
  210. Scottish Women’s Aid
  211. Scottish Youth Parliament
  212. Simon Community Scotland
  213. Six Ways Erdington Baptist Church
  214. SMK Law Solicitors
  215. Snowdrop Project
  216. Somali Adult Social Care Agency
  217. South London Refugee Association
  218. South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group
  219. Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC)
  220. Space Youth Project
  221. St. Vincents Justice & Peace group
  222. Stand & Be Counted
  223. Statewatch
  224. Stories of Hope and Home
  225. Student Action for Refugees (STAR)
  226. Support After Rape & Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL)
  227. Tai Pawb
  228. Tees Valley of Sanctuary
  229. The Baobab
  230. The Children’s Society
  231. The Comfrey Project
  232. The Hong Kong Scots
  233. The Hummingbird Refugee Project- Brighton
  234. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
  235. The Kite Trust
  236. The Methodist Church
  237. The Paristamen Charity
  238. The Public Interest Litigation Support (PILS) Project
  239. The Separated Child Foundation
  240. The United Reformed Church
  241. The William Gomes Podcast
  242. Time to be Out
  243. Together Now
  244. Together with Migrant Children
  245. Together with Refugees Stroud District
  246. Tulia Group
  247. Tynemouth Together with Refugees
  248. Tyneside Welcomes
  249. UK Black Pride
  250. Unison
  251. Unlock Democracy
  252. Upbeat Communities
  253. Vauxhall Community Law and Information Centre
  254. Voices in Exile
  255. Welfare Scotland
  256. Welsh Centre for International Affairs
  257. Welsh Refugee Council
  258. Wers campaigning group
  259. West London Welcome
  260. WISH
  261. Women for Independence
  262. Women for Refugee Women
  263. Women’s Health Matters
  264. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom UK
  265. Young Roots
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