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UN leaders warn of 'harmful' consequences as UK controversial migrant law

April 23, 2024 at 4:22 pm

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves the Prime Minister’s Office to attend the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in London, United Kingdom on January 10, 2024 [Raşid Necati Aslım – Anadolu Agency]

Following the UK Parliament’s approval of the controversial Rwanda Bill that paves the way for the deportation of asylum seekers to the East African country, the UN leaders sounded alarm on the “harmful impact” it will have on global responsibility-sharing , human rights and refugee protection, Anadolu Agency reports.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, in a joint statement, called on the UK government to reconsider its plan to transfer asylum-seekers to Rwanda and, instead, to take practical measures to address irregular flows of refugees and migrants, based on international cooperation and respect for international human rights law.

“The new legislation marks a further step away from the UK’s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention,” Grandi said, underlining that protecting refugees requires all countries and not just those neighbouring crisis zones to uphold their obligations.

“This arrangement seeks to shift responsibility for refugee protection, undermining international cooperation and setting a worrying global precedent,” he said.

READ: UN experts urge UK airlines, aviation authorities to not facilitate unlawful removals to Rwanda

While recognising the challenges posed by the irregular movement of refugees and migrants, the UN leaders expressed “grave concern” that the legislation would facilitate transfers under the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership with limited consideration of their individual circumstances or protection risks.

They called on the UK to pursue practical cooperation with countries along the routes that refugees and migrants take, to strengthen protection and to offer real alternatives, which include expanding safe and regular routes to protection.

“By shifting responsibility for refugees, reducing the UK’s courts’ ability to scrutinise removal decisions, restricting access to legal remedies in the UK and limiting the scope of domestic and international human rights protections for a specific group of people, this new legislation seriously hinders the rule of law in the UK and sets a perilous precedent globally,” Turk said.

He added: “It is critical to the protection of the human rights and dignity of refugees and migrants seeking protection that all removals from the UK are carried out after assessing their specific individual circumstances in strict compliance with international human rights and refugee law.”

The British government’s Safety of Rwanda Bill will become law after it passed through parliament late Monday.

The Bill aims to address the concerns of the UK Supreme Court, which ruled that the government’s original plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful.

The Bill compels judges to regard Rwanda as a safe country and gives ministers the power to disregard parts of the Human Rights Act.

The Rwanda plan had been one of the most controversial plans of the government’s migration policy as it sparked international criticism and mass protests across the UK.

In January last year, Sunak said tackling small boat crossings by irregular migrants across the English Channel was among five priorities of his government as more than 45,000 migrants arrived in the UK that way in 2022.

READ: ‘No ifs, no buts’, UK Sunak promises to start Rwanda flights