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UN warns of human rights impact of UK's Rwanda asylum law

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-04-24 02:33

Sadiq Tarakhil, a 29-year-old migrant from Afghanistan, drinks water in a camp in Grande Synthe, after migrants died in an attempt to cross the English Channel, in France on April 23. [Photo/Agencies]

GENEVA -- United Nations (UN) leaders have raised the alarm over the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill passed by the United Kingdom (UK) this week.

The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, and High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk highlighted the law's detrimental effects on human rights and refugee protection.

The bill identifies Rwanda as a secure nation, and is a crucial component of the government's strategy to relocate certain asylum seekers there. It is set to become law after months of wrangling ended in a parliamentary showdown on Monday night.

On Tuesday, Grandi and Turk called on the UK government to reconsider its plan to transfer asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Instead, the UN leaders asked the UK to take practical measures to address irregular flows of refugees and migrants, based on international cooperation and respect for international human rights law.

"The new legislation marks a further step away from the UK's long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention," said Grandi. "This arrangement seeks to shift responsibility for refugee protection, undermining international cooperation and setting a worrying global precedent."

Meanwhile, Turk said: "By shifting responsibility for refugees, reducing the UK's courts' ability to scrutinize removal decisions, restricting access to legal remedies in the UK and limiting the scope of domestic and international human rights protections for a specific group of people, this new legislation seriously hinders the rule of law in the UK and sets a perilous precedent globally."

In April 2022, Britain struck a deal with Rwanda whereby illegal immigrants and asylum seekers would be transferred to Rwanda for their claims to be processed. Once approved, they would receive permanent residency in Rwanda instead of being permitted to go back to the UK.

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