Safety of Rwanda Bill to become law

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Safety of Rwanda Bill to become law

Safety of Rwanda Bill to become law

The Safety of Rwanda Bill (the Rwandan bill) is a piece of legislation designating Rwanda as a ‘safe’ country rather than seeking to keep Rwanda safe. It’s been bouncing around in Parliament for some time as the House of Lords, where there is a Conservative majority, had multiple concerns about the legal and moral implications of the bill. The House of Commons, where the is also a Conservative majority, seemed to have fewer concerns as Rishi Sunak’s government keep throwing red meat to their core voters.

If it’s not obvious from the above, the Rwandan bill is a terrible piece of law. It is cruel and expensive and doesn’t fix the problems it was designed to ‘solve’ – there is a whole host of arguments that the current government wanted the bill to be delayed as long as possible so they could cry about ‘lefty lawyers’ and Labour frustrating the will of the people. In addition, if the bill was never made law, they would never be judged on the results.

The results are not good. The Home Office have no evidence it will reduce small boat crossings and the National Audit Office believes it will cost around £150,000 per person sent to Rwanda – just think what we could spend on the NHS instead.

From a legal perspective the Rwandan Bill now prevents anyone facing removal to Rwanda to argue that the general situation in Rwanda is unsafe. By law, under the Rwandan Bill, Rwanda is, generally, a safe country. Any attempt to remain in the UK must raise specific risks. General safety concerns cannot be considered nor can the risk of refoulement (return to a country in which a person is in danger).

Those at risk of removal to Rwanda are those who entered the UK by irregular or unlawful means (most commonly, on a small boat crossing the English Channel) after the enactment of the Illegal Migration Act (IMA) in 2023. In addition, those who entered before the IMA who have had their claims certified as “clearly unfounded” are at risk of removal. The mechanism of removal is under the IMA which provides for removal to a person’s home country or a safe third country. The Rwandan Bill sits on top of the IMA and confirms that Rwanda is safe for removals.

If a person is facing removal to Rwanda, they can only resist removal by raising “real, imminent and foreseeable risks of serious and irreversible harm”. LGBT+ individuals might be able to raise such a risk, those fleeing powerful paramilitary or terrorist groups in central Africa might be able to raise a risk. Others will need to make carefully evidenced applications and, I suspect, Rwandan country experts will be in short supply as everyone will need them to evidence their claims.

The Supreme Court previously decided that Rwanda was not a safe country. The Government have done some legal gymnastics to get around this decision. First, a new treaty with Rwanda concludes that no person removed to Rwanda will in turn be removed from Rwanda except to the UK. If followed, no person removed to Rwanda could be refouled. Even if a person’s asylum claim is refused in Rwanda they will still receive permanent residence and legal protections there. This would deal with the Supreme Court’s fears of those removed to Rwanda being refouled to countries in which they would be in danger. It remains to be seen if this happens in practice.

The Supreme Court, after concluding the risk of refoulement was sufficient, did not go on to consider the other general risks in Rwanda. The Government views this as support for their position and goes so far as to state that Rwanda is safer than London (I think that’s more damning on a Government of 14 years than they think it is though it appears to be an anti-Sadiq Khan jab).

In short, Rwanda promises to not remove anyone from Rwanda after they have been removed from the UK. Anyone facing removal to Rwanda has to show why they specifically would be in danger in Rwanda, and they’re not allowed to argue that they face a general danger or that they might be refouled.

The Government has ‘commandeered’ a whole host of resources to make this law work but it’s likely that this will quickly get bogged down in legal challenges and we expect calls of ‘activist lawyers’ blocking the will of the people again.

If you are at risk of removal to Rwanda and need legal help, please call us immediately on 0300 131 6767. If you have clients at risk of removal then start preparing a case that highlights specific risks; general arguments will fail because, by law, Rwanda is a safe country as soon as the Bill becomes law.

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