Rwanda-UK Migration Treaty Reaffirms Original Plan

A new treaty on migration between the United Kingdom and Rwanda will respond to concerns raised by the UK Supreme Court, according to the government of Rwanda.

Speaking to British television Sky News after the November 15 UK Supreme Court ruling that challenged a migration deal signed in April 2022, government spokesperson Yolande Makolo said the new binding treaty will “reemphasise” provisions of the initial plan.

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The Supreme Court ruled that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would risk being sent back to their countries of origin. Makolo said that would not happen.

“What I can say about the treaty that we are working on right now is that it will reemphasise the guarantees that are in the MoUs,” she said.

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“The provisions are already there. So, the reemphasising of these guarantees in the treaty will address the concerns of the court and will reassure anyone who has any worries about asylum seekers being sent back to the countries that they came from. They’ve already been addressed in the MoU. They will be reemphasised in the treaty.”

Makolo said the Supreme Court ruling was a decision of the UK judicial system, over which Rwanda had no control.

She said: “What we did object to is rather being portrayed as unsafe. Rwanda is a safe country in terms of refoulement, meaning sending asylum seekers back to the countries where they’re persecuted. Rwanda does not do that. And this provision is included in the MoU.

“In order to address that concern, we will reemphasise it in the treaty that we’re working on. So, that issue of being a safe country where asylum seekers will not be sent back is already being addressed and will be in the binding treaty.”

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The five-year partnership seeks to transfer to Rwanda migrants arriving illegally in the UK through the British Channel.

Makolo said Kigali entered the migration and economic development partnership “for the right reasons,” including the need to address “bigger questions of inequality in opportunities” between the Global North and the South.

Rwanda is home to more than 135,000 refugees, mainly from Burundi and DR Congo.

While Rwanda is already obliged by the 1951 Refugee Convention not to send refugees back to their countries where they would face persecution, Makolo said that in the new treaty “it’s laid up clearly that Rwanda and the UK will not be doing that.”

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There are programmes in place that will ensure the asylum seekers get the services they need, she said, and these include legal representation and psychosocial support. She said that the history of Rwanda and that of the region, especially with regard to refugees, made it “one of the least xenophobic countries in the world.”

New legislation

Addressing journalists on Monday, November 20, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who earlier described the Rwanda policy as “essential,” said his government “had prepared for all circumstances.”

“We have been working on a new treaty with Rwanda that will address all the concerns that were raised by the Supreme Court. And we will combine that with new emergency legislation that will make it crystal clear and give Parliament the opportunity to confirm that Rwanda, for all of these purposes, is a safe place to implement our scheme.”

Sunak’s office is expected to table the new legislation in the coming days, according to British media.

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