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‘No safeguards’ in Britain’s Rwanda deal
Law Society of England and Wales President I Stephanie Boyce

30 Aug 2022 / global news Print

‘No safeguards’ in Britain’s Rwanda deal

The Law Society of England and Wales has told the House of Lords that Britain’s controversial ‘asylum partnership’ with Rwanda is not legally binding, has not been scrutinised by parliament, and does not protect the rights of asylum-seekers.

Its president I Stephanie Boyce (pictured) also described the move as “outsourcing the UK’s international obligations onto Rwanda”, according to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales.

The organisation was giving evidence on the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries for the provision of an asylum arrangement.

‘No way of seeking justice’

The Gazette quoted Boyce as saying that the partnership would make “profound and irreversible changes to the lives of refugees and migrants sent to Rwanda”.

She added, however, that the safeguards in the deal were not binding or enforceable, and that domestic and international-law requirements did not apply to them.

“If an asylum-seeker’s human rights were breached in Rwanda, they would have no way of seeking justice in the UK,” Boyce stated.

“They wouldn’t be able to appeal to British courts, and there is nothing the UK could do to enforce their rights under the terms of the agreement.”

International law

The deal potentially put Britain in breach of international law, the president of the solicitors’ body said.

“For instance, if categories of people were in practice prevented from claiming asylum in the UK, or if the government were to effectively pre-judge asylum claims from groups of people,” she said.

“The Law Society believes people will be given insufficient notice or time to get legal advice about their removal to Rwanda under the MoU – just 14 days, or seven days if they are in immigration detention,” Boyce stated.

“Anyone subject to such a life-changing order must be able to challenge the decision, and to have their case processed fairly and transparently.”

Monitoring bodies

The society pointed out that the UN Refugee Convention prohibited ‘refoulement’ – returning a refugee to a place where they would face persecution. It added that this applied not only to their country of origin, but also to a third country, such as Rwanda.

“The UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons has raised concerns we echo that asylum seekers removed by the UK might face persecution in Rwanda,” Boyce said.

“There is a further risk of them being subsequently removed from Rwanda to their country of origin, and facing persecution there. Both eventualities could contravene the principle of non-refoulement,” she added.

According to the Gazette, Boyce told the House of Lords that monitoring bodies referred to in the agreement had not been set up, and there were not enough details to determine whether they would provide effective oversight.

“The government has failed utterly to put in place any legally binding safeguards or enforcement mechanisms to protect the rights of people it intends to send to Rwanda,” Boyce concluded.

“In addition to the consequences for individuals, this has potential consequences for the UK’s international standing, which is underpinned by our reputation for upholding the rule of law.”

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland