UK to receive refugees from Rwanda and foreign criminals will be deported back to Britain

Britain's Home Secretary James Cleverly, left, and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta pose for pictures after signing a new treaty in Kigali, Rwanda, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. The treaty will address concerns by the Supreme Court, including assurances that Rwanda will not remove anybody transferred under the partnership to another country. (Ben Birchall/PA Wire via AP)
By Thomas Brooke
6 Min Read

Rwanda can pick and choose which asylum seekers it wants, resettle an indeterminate number of its own people in the United Kingdom, and send all criminals convicted of a serious offense back to Britain in the revised asylum agreement between the two countries.

U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly met with Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta in Kigali on Tuesday to hash out new terms after the U.K. Supreme Court declared sections of the previous agreement unlawful and contrary to international obligations on human rights.

Cleverly told journalists that the new treaty “addresses all of the issues of their lordships in the Supreme Court” who had expressed their concerns that deporting migrants to Rwanda could put the asylum seekers at risk of being returned to their home country where they could face torture or persecution.

“I would say there’s always room for improvement to any system designed by human beings, Rwandan or British,” said Biruta alongside the U.K. home secretary.

“This is the reason why we have worked on this treaty… to make sure we can improve our asylum system and that we have a fair and transparent asylum system in place,” he added.

The newly agreed terms, however, offer some problematic clauses for conservatives seeking to take back control of Britain’s borders, laws, and money, to coin a phrase from the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016.

First, the Rwandan government will have the right to send its own refugees to the United Kingdom. The new agreement does not state whether these are Rwandan nationals seeking asylum, or refugees from third countries who have sought asylum in Rwanda.

“The Parties shall make arrangements for the United Kingdom to resettle a portion of Rwanda’s most vulnerable refugees in the United Kingdom, recognizing both Parties’ commitment towards providing better international protection for refugees,” the relevant clause reads.

It does not provide any figures on how many refugees the British public can expect to receive from the African nation, prompting Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings to quip on Tuesday evening that “Rwanda will send more people to the U.K. than we send there”.

Second, Rwanda will have the right to be selective in the asylum seekers it wants to receive from Britain. In Article 4 of the text, the treaty stipulates that “all transfer requests by the U.K. shall require approval by Rwanda prior to relocation”.

As such, the Rwandan government can simply cherry-pick the asylum seekers it is happy to take from Britain — perhaps women and children — and reserves the right to refuse others. It is unclear what recourse Britain then has left to deal with the leftovers, and more importantly where they will live.

The new agreement involves a legally binding clause that states no asylum seeker deported from the U.K. will be removed from the African nation other than back to Britain. Under this clause, any migrant sent to Rwanda who goes on to commit a serious criminal offense that carries a minimum of five years’ imprisonment will be deported back to Britain after serving their sentence.

The Home Office insists that any convicted criminal who is returned to the U.K. can still be deported back to their home country, however, it is unclear the extent to which this will be feasible with Britain still a signatory to numerous international treaties on human rights which are often used currently by foreign criminals to thwart deportation orders.

Lastly, the agreement raises further concerns about the sheer cost of the plan to the British taxpayer. The U.K. government has already paid Rwanda £140 million (€163 million) but as of yet has not succeeded in sending a single migrant to the African nation.

All migrants deported to the country will be entitled to five years’ support in housing, education, language classes, training, and integration, according to The Telegraph newspaper. They will also be entitled to legal aid to assist them with their asylum applications.

This will again be at Britain’s expense. However, Cleverly refused to disclose whether any further funding had been agreed upon between the two governments.

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