The government is asking Parliament to pass the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill to confirm Rwanda as a safe country in UK domestic law. This would enable the removal of individuals entering the UK without permission under the terms of legislation previously passed by Parliament. It would also advance the government’s ‘Rwanda policy’, following a Supreme Court judgment that the policy was unlawful based on a risk that those removed to Rwanda under a UK-Rwanda asylum partnership could be returned to countries where they may face persecution or other inhumane treatment. This is known as ‘refoulement’. 

The bill accompanies a new treaty signed by the UK and Rwanda to strengthen safeguards in an earlier asylum partnership agreement. The treaty has been laid before Parliament and is awaiting ratification. On 22 January 2024, the House approved a resolution tabled by Lord Goldsmith (Labour), chair of the House of Lords International Agreements Committee, that the government should not ratify the treaty “until the protections it provides have been fully implemented, since Parliament is being asked to make a judgement, based on the agreement, about whether Rwanda is safe”. After debate, the House approved the resolution by 214 votes to 171. The government can override this if it lays a statement before Parliament. 

The House of Commons has passed the bill, although its provisions have been politically controversial. The Labour Party has called the government’s Rwanda policy unaffordable, unworkable and unlawful. A number of Conservative backbenchers have argued the bill’s provisions are not robust enough to implement the government’s removal policy as intended. In addition, a number of legal scholars have said the bill is not compatible with international law. Others disagree, however, arguing the bill as drafted could effect the government’s policy as intended while remaining compatible with international law.

The government has published explanatory notes, a human rights memorandum and a number of other documents to accompany the bill.

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