Robert Jenrick, the UK’s Minister of Immigration, resigned in protest over Rwanda Bill. He raised his voice against new government legislation on the Rwandan asylum transfer programme that was unveiled on Wednesday, 6 December 2023, saying that it “does not go far enough.”
Since it was unveiled in April 2022, the government’s disastrous proposal to transfer some asylum seekers to Rwanda while they wait for verdicts on their claims has been the focus of intense legal opposition.
The UK Supreme Court declared the plan unconstitutional in a November 2023 ruling, but three successive Home Secretaries have persisted in their attempts to push the policy beyond its breaking point.
What is Rwanda Bill?
The UK government declared in April 2022 that it would send some incoming asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing as part of a five-year experimental programme. This programme, which aims to deter illegal immigration, is still quite contentious.
The UK government and Rwanda have inked a new treaty that contains the specifics of their contentious refugee deal. The prior non-binding memorandum of understanding has been replaced by this agreement.
The salient points of the agreement are:
Refugee Protection: According to the Rwanda Bill, people who are taken to Rwanda to file asylum applications won’t be in danger of being “refouled,” or transferred to a nation where they might suffer persecution. Rwanda will be subject to treaty compliance oversight by a new, impartial monitoring committee.
Legal System: British and Commonwealth judges will oversee a new appeals procedure in Rwanda thanks to funding provided by the UK. Additionally, the UK will pay the legal fees for individuals who are transported to Rwanda.
Financial Support: For a maximum of five years following a relocation, the UK government will cover living expenses and housing.
Return and Resettlement: People who are transferred to Rwanda for criminal activity may be brought back to the United Kingdom. As per the terms of the prior agreement, Rwanda may transfer a portion of its “most vulnerable refugees” to the United Kingdom for resettlement.
The purpose of this updated Rwanda Bill is to resolve issues brought up by the previous one, namely with relation to legal protections and human rights. Nonetheless, the accord continues to be contentious and has legal obstacles.
Jenrick’s letter of resignation over Rwanda Bill to Sunak demonstrated his unwavering support for specific measures that would restrict judicial challenges to immigration rules. He denounced the law as “a triumph of hope over experience” and expressed his criticism of it.
In response, Sunak defended the plan of Rwanda Bill, claiming that it would be the most stringent legislation the UK government has ever presented on illegal migration. The opposition Labour Party has called the administration “chaotic,” and Sunak’s resignation is a major blow as he gets ready for the general election of 2024.
Despite potential legal obstacles, the Safety of Rwanda Bill, which is scheduled to be introduced in the House of Commons, seeks to definitively declare Rwanda to be a safe nation. Sunak emphasised that the purpose of the measure is to manage borders, discourage dangerous travel, and deal with ongoing legal issues.
In order to avoid creating legal obstacles, the act includes vetoing some provisions of the Human Rights Act with regard to Rwanda. This has shaken the UK parliament.
In an attempt to dissuade people smugglers from transporting migrants to the UK’s borders, the proposed repatriation proposal would send illegal migrants to Rwanda while their asylum claims are being processed. During a recent visit to Kigali, Cleverly signed a new treaty with Dr. Vincent Biruta, the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, strengthening UK efforts to handle immigration.