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UK-Rwanda Partnership

Volume 748: debated on Thursday 25 April 2024

The Government today laid a statutory statement, in line with section 20(8) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, confirming its intention to ratify the UK-Rwanda agreement on an asylum partnership (the treaty). The treaty will be ratified today.

The UK Government and the Government of Rwanda have worked together to ensure that all the necessary measures are in place, such that the parties are able to meet their obligations as and when they arise, to proceed with ratification of the treaty.

This work has included:

The passing by the Government of Rwanda of their own domestic legislation to ratify the treaty and to amend their asylum system to reflect new case-working and appeals processes. These measures will help address the Supreme Court’s conclusions on the effectiveness of the Rwandan asylum system and will help build capacity and capability.

Identifying a Rwandan and a Commonwealth co-president to head up the new appeals body, which was introduced under the treaty to address the points raised by the Supreme Court about the independence of the Rwandan judiciary, and to ensure that the final determination of a refugee claim is independent and objective. The co-presidents will work together to ensure the selection of appropriate judges, on the drafting of procedural rules, and on the delivery of effective and appropriate training for new judges.

Progressing the identification of an independent expert to the new appeal body, and of potential experts to support the functioning of casework and to ensure high-quality decision-making.

Creating an independent monitoring committee, which will monitor the operation of the treaty.

Commencing the procurement exercise for the monitoring committee support team, which will be in place prior to a first flight.

Implementing an initial system to monitor the location of relocated individuals, with their consent, to ensure they are safe and that refoulement contrary to the terms of the treaty has not occurred.

Developing and agreeing with the Government of Rwanda a range of standard operating procedures detailing how the provisions under the treaty will be delivered in practice. This includes processes for safeguarding vulnerable individuals and accessing the comprehensive medical support package available to relocated individuals.

I am grateful to the Government of Rwanda for their work in implementing the treaty to ensure those relocated will be offered safety and security.

In line with our obligations under the refugee convention and the European convention on human rights, the treaty, which is binding in international law, addresses the Supreme Court’s conclusions by making it clear that refoulement will not occur. The treaty ensures that those relocated: will be safe; will be fully supported for five years; will not be removed to a third country; and will have their asylum claims processed fairly; and that those who are not granted refugee status or humanitarian protection will get equivalent treatment and will be granted permanent residence.

The assurances in the treaty, alongside ongoing work to strengthen Rwanda’s asylum system and operational readiness since the evidential position considered by the courts in summer 2022, are sufficient to conclude that Rwanda is safe for relocated individuals. In passing the Safety of Rwanda Act, which received Royal Assent today, 25 April 2024, Parliament has reached the same conclusion.

The Act will come into force upon the ratification of the treaty. Decision makers will be required to treat Rwanda as a generally safe country for the purpose of relocating individuals. The Act does allow decision makers and the courts and tribunals to consider claims that Rwanda is unsafe for an individual person due to their particular circumstances, despite the safeguards in the treaty, if there is compelling evidence to that effect. But an individual claim is not permitted on grounds that Rwanda may remove the person to another state in contravention of any of its international obligations. The treaty has removed this risk.

Parliament is sovereign. Individuals with no legal right to be in the UK should no longer be able to frustrate removal through spurious legal challenges.

Despite the progress we have made in tackling illegal migration, we must go further. To fully solve this problem, we need a strong deterrent. Only by removing the prospect that illegal migrants can settle in the UK can we control our borders and save lives at sea. That is why it is essential we relocate illegal migrants to Rwanda, rather than letting them stay in the UK.

The sooner we can bring into effect our partnership with Rwanda, the faster we can disrupt the business model of smuggling gangs and demonstrate that making dangerous, illegal, and unnecessary journeys to the UK is not a viable means of entry to the UK asylum system.

When people know that if they come here illegally, they will not get to stay, they will stop coming altogether, and we will stop the boats. Illegal migration destroys lives, costs British taxpayers billions of pounds, and is unfair to those who follow the rules. Passing the Safety of Rwanda Act and ratifying the treaty with Rwanda will help us put a stop to this.