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Faith Nyasuguta

The Council of Europe’s human rights watchdog has issued a scathing condemnation of Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda scheme, expressing profound concerns about its potential ramifications on asylum seekers’ rights and the independence of the judiciary.

Michael O’Flaherty, the body’s human rights commissioner, emphasized the gravity of the situation, asserting that the bill, slated for enactment after clearing parliamentary hurdles, poses significant risks and should not serve as a pretext for expelling asylum seekers or undermining judicial oversight.

O’Flaherty underscored the UK’s obligations under international law, noting that even indirect actions leading to refoulement, the forcible return of refugees to persecution, are strictly prohibited. He cited provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Refugee Convention, and other international instruments that safeguard individuals from such violations.

Despite Sunak’s announcement that deportation flights to Kigali would commence within 10-12 weeks, acknowledging potential delays beyond the originally anticipated spring timeline, concerns persist regarding the scheme’s legality and ethical implications.

A Home Office minister acknowledged the inevitability of legal challenges to the Rwanda scheme, anticipating resistance from those adamantly opposed to its implementation. Charities and rights groups have denounced the bill as a blemish on the nation’s moral reputation, casting doubt on its compatibility with human rights norms.

Michael Tomlinson, the illegal migration minister, defended the policy, dismissing criticisms of Rwanda’s treatment of marginalized groups and highlighting its progressive stance on issues like LGBTQ+ rights. He rebuked what he deemed patronizing and supercilious attitudes toward Rwanda, asserting that individuals could safely be sent there without facing unlawful persecution.

/Fox News/

The bill encountered staunch resistance in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, with peers ultimately relenting on certain amendments. However, legal challenges loom large as the government prepares to implement the deportation plan by July.

Sunak lauded the bill as a groundbreaking initiative to deter migrants from embarking on perilous journeys and dismantle criminal networks that exploit vulnerable individuals. He characterized it as a pivotal moment in reshaping the global migration landscape, aligning with the government’s broader strategy to enhance border security and combat human trafficking.

Despite Sunak’s optimism, the passage of the Rwanda bill has sparked intense debate over the UK’s adherence to human rights principles, raising questions about the legality, morality, and efficacy of its migration policies.

Critics argue that the bill undermines fundamental human rights protections and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of asylum seekers, potentially exposing them to further harm and persecution.

In light of mounting opposition and legal challenges, the government faces significant hurdles in implementing the Rwanda scheme. The ensuing legal battles and public scrutiny underscore the complexities and ethical dilemmas inherent in migration policy decisions, highlighting the need for careful consideration of human rights implications and adherence to international legal norms.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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