UK’s Rwanda Bill Criticized by Council of Europe Human Rights Watchdog

UK's Rwanda Bill Criticized by Council of Europe Human Rights Watchdog
credit: "Ensure to credit WAMU when sharing this content."

London (Parliament New) – The Council of Europe’s human rights watchdog criticizes the UK’s Rwanda bill, citing concerns over asylum seekers’ human rights and judicial independence. Legal challenges are expected.

The Council of Europe’s human rights watchdog has criticised Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda scheme, stating it raises “major issues regarding the human rights of asylum seekers and the rule of law”.

The body’s human rights commissioner, Michael O’Flaherty, stated the bill, expected to be signed into law on Tuesday after giving its parliamentary stages on Monday night, was a serious concern and should not be used to release asylum seekers or infringe on judges’ independence.

“I am concerned that the Rwanda bill enables the implementation of a policy of removing people to Rwanda without any prior assessment of their asylum claims by the UK authorities in the majority of cases,” O’Flaherty stated, adding that the bill “significantly excludes the ability of UK courts to fully and independently scrutinise the issues brought before them”.

The UK remains a partner of the pan-European body that advances human rights, democracy and the rule of law across the continent. O’Flaherty cautioned that the UK was banned from subjecting, even indirectly, people to “refoulement” – the act of pushing a refugee or asylum seeker to a country or territory where he or she is likely to meet persecution – including under article 3 of the EU convention on human rights, under the refugee pattern, and under “a range of other international instruments”.

Sunak has stated flights will begin taking asylum seekers to Kigali within 10-12 weeks, admitting he would miss his target of flights taking off by spring. Speaking after the passing of the bill, the prime minister pledged it would be a “fundamental change in the global equation on migration”.

How Does the Government Respond to Legal Challenges?

Home Office minister stated the government was prepared for “inevitable” legal challenges to the Rwanda scheme, saying there were those who were “determined to do whatever it takes to try and stop this policy from working”.

Charities and rights groups have blamed the passing of the bill as a “stain on this country’s moral reputation”.

What International Legal Standards Are Involved?

The illegal migration minister, Michael Tomlinson, described Times Radio that the government knew there would be lawful battles ahead. “I’m afraid that there will be challenges. Some people don’t like this policy.”

He stated there were “patronising and supercilious” statements about the treatment of gay people in Rwanda, calling it “a very advanced country”. Frankly, some of the debate that we’ve heard in the House of Commons and the House of Lords – not recently but in the early days – was very patronising and almost haughty in looking down at Rwanda,” he stated. “So yes, people can be safely sent to Rwanda and it is not unlawful to be gay in Rwanda and intolerance on any grounds is unlawful in Rwanda.”

The bill was enacted after a showdown with peers, who eventually admitted two amendments, but the government is anticipated to face many legal battles as it prepares to deport asylum seekers by July.

The prime minister expressed the bill was “not just a step forward but a basic change in the global equation on migration. We introduced the Rwanda bill to deter weak migrants from making dangerous crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs who exploit them,” he stated.

What Criticism Does the Bill Face?

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, stated the bill “takes a hatchet to international lawful protections for some of the most vulnerable people in the world, and it is a case of national disgrace that our political structure has let this bill pass.

“The bill is built on a profoundly authoritarian notion attacking one of the most basic roles recreated by the courts – the ability to look at evidence, determine on the facts of a case and apply the law accordingly. It’s ridiculous that the courts are forced to treat Rwanda as a ‘safe country’ and forbidden from considering all evidence to the contrary.”

Daniele Naddei

Daniele Naddei is a journalist at Parliament News covering European affairs, was born in Naples on April 8, 1991. He also serves as the Director of the CentroSud24 newspaper. During the period from 2010 to 2013, Naddei completed an internship at the esteemed local radio station Radio Club 91. Subsequently, he became the author of a weekly magazine published by the Italian Volleyball Federation of Campania (FIPAV Campania), which led to his registration in the professional order of Journalists of Campania in early 2014, listed under publicists. From 2013 to 2018, he worked as a freelance photojournalist and cameraman for external services for Rai and various local entities, including TeleCapri, CapriEvent, and TLA. Additionally, between 2014 and 2017, Naddei collaborated full-time with various newspapers in Campania, both in print and online. During this period, he also resumed his role as Editor-in-Chief at Radio Club 91.
Naddei is actively involved as a press officer for several companies and is responsible for editing cultural and social events in the city through his association with the Medea Fattoria Sociale. This experience continued until 2021. Throughout these years, he hosted or collaborated on football sports programs for various local broadcasters, including TLA, TvLuna, TeleCapri, Radio Stonata, Radio Amore, and Radio Antenna Uno.
From 2016 to 2018, Naddei was employed as an editor at newspapers of national interest within the circuit, including Internazionale24, Salute24, and OggiScuola. Since 2019, Naddei has been one of the creators of the Rabona television program "Calcio è Passione," which has been broadcast on TeleCapri Sport since 2023.