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On UK Rwanda Bill, UN Rights agency urges enhanced 'safe, regular' paths for asylum seeking

April 24, 2024 at 7:51 pm

Hundreds of demonstrators gather during a protest against the UK’s plan to send migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda in London, United Kingdom on 13 June, 2022 [Raşid Necati Aslım/Anadolu Agency]

As the UK’s controversial Rwanda Bill is set to become law, the UN Human Rights office on Wednesday urged governments to enhance “safe and regular” pathways for asylum seekers instead of “externalising” their obligations, Anadolu Agency reports.

“We are deeply concerned that various other countries are considering ways of externalising their asylum and other human rights obligations and we have repeatedly stated that this worrying trend raises very serious concerns, both from international human rights law and international refugee law perspectives,” Seif Magango, an OHCHR spokesperson, told Anadolu.

Pointing to remarks last July by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, following the adoption of the UK Illegal Migration Act, Magango said this Bill sets a “worrying precedent for dismantling asylum-related obligations on other countries, including in Europe.

He said other countries “may be tempted to follow, with a potentially adverse effect on the international refugee and human rights protection system as a whole.”

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

Magango stressed that the OHCHR has repeatedly raised concerns over offshore asylum processing centres and similar arrangements, “as such policies should not be considered a model by any country”.

“Instead of moving forward with such policies that undermine the international refugee and human rights protection system, governments should instead seek to enhance the availability of roads for safe and regular entry and stay as an effective tool to ensure the protection of the human rights of people on the move,” he urged.

The Safety of Rwanda Bill passed through the British Parliament late Monday, paving the way for it to become law, despite growing concern.

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.

It also 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 has been one of the most controversial schemes in the government’s migration policy as it sparked international criticism and mass protests across the UK.

In January 2023, Prime Minister, Rishi 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.

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