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The Safety of Rwanda Bill, which will now become law is a deeply worrying piece of legislation that poses a significant risk to us all, not only to our everyday human rights but the very values we hold dear as a society. The Bill represents the latest example of the UK Government’s racist and cruel anti-migrant agenda, decades in the making, and we have opposed it at every stage.

As a reminder, the Rwanda plan, announced back in April 2022, would see some people seeking asylum in the UK forcibly removed to Rwanda, where their claim would be processed by the Rwandan asylum system. If their claim is successful, they would then remain in Rwanda, not the UK. 

This policy has been heavily criticised since being announced and has been subject to numerous legal challenges. 

The Safety of Rwanda Bill followed a Supreme Court ruling in November 2023, which stated that the UK Government’s plan to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda was unlawful, deeming Rwanda to be unsafe with people facing a real risk of ill-treatment or the possibility of being sent back to a country where they would potentially face torture or death. 

The UK Government decided to take the incredible step of trying to override this ruling by pursuing new legislation, which states “every decision-maker must conclusively treat the Republic of Rwanda as a safe country.” This Bill is an attempt to legislate a new reality, by automatically declaring Rwanda safe despite the evidence which says otherwise. It exposes how far the UK Government has chosen to disconnect from the truth. 

This legislation has the potential to do untold damage to a group of people that have reached the UK seeking safety, sanctuary, and a better life. It is also a colossal waste of money by a government that insists there is no money for our embattled public services. The cost of this new proposed plan is enormous, with the Institute for Public Policy Research estimating that it will cost £230,000 to send one person to Rwanda, as opposed to the £55,000 per person of the current system, that is an increase of over 300 per cent.

A threat to our rights
There is also a deeper, more sinister element to this legislation, often overlooked by the media. This Bill effectively ends universal human rights in the UK as it disapplies sections of the Human Rights Act 1998 (Clause 2(5)b and Clause 3). 

The Human Rights Act (HRA) is a hugely important piece of domestic legislation, and part of the fabric of the country. This Bill 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.

This Bill also seeks to put the UK Government above international law, sending a devastating signal to the world about our reliability as a partner and striking a serious blow to the UK’s commitment to the rule of law.

How we have opposed it
Since the Rwanda plan was announced we have published research, raised our concerns, and stood shoulder to shoulder with our partners, advocating for the rights of refugees and migrants. We have signed numerous joint actions calling on UK Parliamentarians to reject or amend the bill, and today signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak restating our opposition.

The passing of this legislation is without a doubt a terrible tragedy, and major setback for rights in the UK, by a government determined to roll back as many rights protections as it can. 

An assault on one group’s rights is an assault on us all. The UK Government should not be allowed to choose which of our rights apply, when, or undermine the ways that we can hold it to account. 

This is not the end of the fight; we will continue to fight for the rights of people seeking asylum in the UK.  There is only one response: resist.

For more information see our recent submissions:

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Background image by Joshua Rush