British Home Secretary James Cleverly on Tuesday signed a new treaty with Rwanda in Kigali, its capital, for the British government's asylum plan. It is part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's mission to make the deal to send migrants and rejected asylum seekers, following the Supreme Court's ruling against the initial Tory plan, not considering Rwanda "a safe place" to be tried or asyleed.
The small boats carrying migrants leaving France for Britain across the English Channel obsess British Conservatives and especially their right wing.
"Stopping the boats" became a major goal of Rishi Sunak, when the British elections can be anticipated at any time and Labour is ahead of them.
The agreement means that people flown from Britain to Rwanda cannot be sent back to their home country, from which they fled. This had been the main reason why the Supreme Court ruled that the initial plan to Rwanda was illegal.
That proposal had sparked strong criticism from human rights organizations.
British Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Foreign Secretary Vincent Biruta signed the agreement in Kigali. Photo: AFP
Britain has signed this new treaty with Rwanda which, according to the Home Secretary, will address "all the issues" that led to the Supreme Court overturning the UK's deportation policy.
An insecure country?
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he saw "no credible reason" why the courts would now consider Rwanda "an unsafe country" for asylum seekers. The treaty sets out the progress made to strengthen Rwanda's justice and asylum systems.
The government will publish separate legislation, expected later this week, that would establish Rwanda as "a safe country" for asylum seekers. In reality, it is an autocracy, where human rights and freedom of expression are not respected, and it suffered one of the worst African tribal genocides.
Under Rwanda's policy, anyone who arrives in the UK illegally will be eligible to be deported to the Central African country, where they can then apply for asylum. No flights with migrants have taken place due to legal challenges, which ended in a Supreme Court ruling. He himself declared Sunak's decision illegal, as he does not know how to please the far-right of his party.
Cleverly could not guarantee that the flights would take off before the general election in the kingdom took place.
TOPSHOT - Migrants sit onboard an inflatable boat before attempting to illegally cross the English Channel to reach Britain, off the coast of Sangatte, northern France, on July 18, 2023. (Photo by BERNARD BARRON / AFP)
He declined to say how much new money would be sent to Rwanda and denied that this was related to the treaty. Britain has already paid the Rwandan government £140 million, since the plan was first agreed in April 2022.
Dr Vincent Biruta, Rwanda's foreign minister, said his country had been "treated unfairly" by British courts. He suggested that "UK domestic politics" might have played a role in blocking the original asylum policy.
What does the agreement say?
The treaty guarantees that migrants sent to Rwanda will not be returned to their country of origin, a process known as refoulement. It's the central reason the Supreme Court ruled the plan illegal last month.
A special appeals body will be set up to hear individual appeals from migrants whose asylum claims are rejected by Rwanda's asylum system. The body will be composed of judges of a mix of nationalities, with experience in asylum and humanitarian protection. The Interior Ministry said this will "further strengthen guarantees that relocated people will not be returned."
Migrants who are denied asylum in Rwanda will be offered alternative routes to stay in the country, according to the plan. But they will be able to leave voluntarily. The treaty gives a legal basis to the pre-existing agreement, reached with Rwanda in April 2022.
An independent monitoring committee will be created to ensure that both countries comply with the terms of the treaty. It will assess the conditions faced by migrants upon arrival in Rwanda, the processing of their asylum claims, and their treatment and support during the five-year period following the decision on their application.
The committee will consist of eight independent members. But the Interior Ministry has not yet revealed who they will be.
Rescuers in Dover are helping migrants who arrived in precarious boats in Britain after crossing the English Channel in August. Photo: REUTERS
There will also be a whistleblowing system, which will allow immigrants to file confidential complaints. Developed by the monitoring committee, it will have the power to set priority areas for monitoring and will have unlimited access for migrants to complete assessments and reports.
Doubts about deadlines
Asked if Britain could guarantee flights would take off for the next election, Cleverly said: "We want to get this part of our wider migration plan up and running as quickly as possible. We strongly believe that this treaty addresses all of your honors' issues in the Supreme Court."
He said he "sees no credible reason" to question Rwanda's record, adding that new domestic legislation will come "soon."
Asked if the treaty involved further payments to Rwanda, Cleverly added: "Let me make that clear. The government of Rwanda has not requested nor have we provided any funding related to the signing of this treaty.
"The financial agreement, which is inevitably part of an international agreement, reflects the costs that can be imposed on Rwanda through the changes that this partnership has created in its systems: in its legal systems and its institutions," the British chancellor said. Addressing migration is important and it's not a free option, but we think it's the right thing to do."