Europe’s primary anti-torture watchdog has called on the government to handle asylum claims within the UK, expressing concerns over potential human rights abuses when sending individuals to Rwanda.
The Council of Europe’s committee for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment published a report outlining various issues after an extensive 11-day visit in March and April of the previous year.
Highlighting worries about the UK’s Illegal Migration Act, which permits asylum claims to be processed in Rwanda, the report stresses multiple concerns over the treatment of vulnerable individuals, cautioning that they might face torture or inhuman, degrading treatment if deported to Rwanda.
The committee’s ad hoc visit aimed to scrutinize immigration detention conditions in the UK, coinciding with the Home Office’s plans to significantly augment the number of detained asylum seekers before forced removals to Rwanda.
Currently, there are 2,245 detention spaces, and the government seeks to add another 1,000. The European Court of Human Rights relies on the committee’s findings in relevant cases, as demonstrated by the intervention that halted the government’s initial planned deportation flight to Rwanda on June 14, 2022.
The report raises concerns about the UK’s practice of indefinite immigration detention and the placement of immigration detainees with criminal convictions in prisons post-sentence rather than in dedicated detention centers.
It highlights the ease of removal facilitated by the Illegal Migration Act, stripping away fundamental safeguards.
Moreover, the committee urges the UK government to refrain from using inflammatory or derogatory language when referring to foreign nationals arriving in the country after perilous journeys.
The report also expresses apprehension about detainees, particularly victims of torture or those at risk of suicide, emphasizing flaws in the immigration detention process, notably the Rule 35 categorization.
Detainees deemed unfit for detention might continue to be held even after being granted bail, rendering official statistics inaccurate. The report details instances of mistreatment, such as a compliant man being surrounded by four guards in full body armor and handcuffed.
Additionally, the Illegal Migration Act permits the detention of children for potential deportation to Rwanda, a controversial practice reintroduced despite its previous cessation in the UK. The UK government officials confirmed that children might be detained, assuring that their needs in detention would be met.
Responding to the report, UK officials contested its accuracy, stating that it does not appropriately reflect their efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of those in their care.
In defense of processing asylum claims in Rwanda, officials asserted that the plan aligned with international refugee and human rights law, and courts had deemed the principle of removal to a safe third country lawful.
However, in November 2023, the UK Supreme Court ruled the Rwanda scheme unlawful, declaring Rwanda not a safe country for asylum seekers’ deportation.