Rwanda and the United Kingdom have engaged in discussions to establish a comprehensive treaty on migration following a ruling by the UK Supreme Court on Wednesday, November 15, that the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers would be unlawful.
The Rwandan government has challenged the Supreme Court’s ruling, in particular its position that Rwanda would not be a safe country for asylum seekers.
“While this was ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system, we take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees,” Government Spokesperson Yolande Makolo said in a statement.
“Given Rwanda’s welcoming policy and our record of caring for refugees, the political judgements made today were unjustified.”
“The examples raised in court to support the ruling were insensitive to violations of international humanitarian law ongoing in many parts of the world,” she said.
Makolo also challenged the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), which claimed in a statement after the ruling to have advised the UK Supreme Court on matters of international refugee law and protection standards.
“The court relied on extreme and speculative concerns based on the hypocritical criticisms of the UNHCR, which has on numerous occasions expressed its appreciation of Rwanda’s inclusive refugee policies, qualifying them as ‘exemplary’.
For example, she said, “their claim of ‘100% rejection rate’ of asylum seekers from some parts of the world is dishonest; a total of two individuals from Syria and Yemen were indeed not considered for asylum because there was a faster and more appropriate path to legal residence, and these individuals are currently living and working in Rwanda.”
Also, Makolo said an earlier agreement with Israel to receive migrants was ended by Rwanda after it was deemed unworkable.
‘New international treaty’
“Rwanda will now focus on working with the UK on a binding treaty to re-emphasize already existing guarantees required for the partnership to succeed,” Makolo said.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision and promised to take an “extraordinary step” to ensure the partnership programme succeeds.
“Following today’s ruling, I’m taking the extraordinary step of introducing emergency legislation to confirm Rwanda is safe,” he said.
“We’ve been working on a new international treaty with Rwanda, and we will ratify it without delay. We’ll provide a guarantee in law that those who are relocated from the UK to Rwanda will be protected against removal from Rwanda.”
Sunak said if the European Court of Human Rights chooses to intervene, he will “do whatever is necessary to get flights off” to end the boats arriving in the UK illegally.
“We need to stop the boats, and the Rwanda policy is an essential part of the deterrent. The Supreme Court has today confirmed that removing asylum seekers to a third safe country is lawful.”
Hypocrisy in global migration
The Migration and Economic Development Partnership between the Rwandan and UK governments was signed in April 2022. It came after a major increase in the number of illegal migrants arriving in the UK through the Channel.
It aims at relocating the asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, where they will be empowered through different initiatives.
According to the UN, more than 2,500 migrants died or went missing in 2023 while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.
The fate of the UK-Rwanda migration plan shows the hypocrisy involved in management of the global migration crisis, says Ismael Buchanan, a senior lecturer at the University of Rwanda and an international relations scholar.
“This shows how Europe pretends to use international laws as if supporting refugees, yet you find out that there are some Europeans who are among the smugglers of people,” Buchanan said.
“I think we should redefine the meaning of humanitarian. We are in a crisis; people are dying in the oceans.”