Britain and Rwanda signed an agreement on Tuesday to re-launch the UK asylum seekers policy, which is expected to be followed closely by other European countries facing similar challenges and interested in slashing migration.
UK Home Secretary James Cleverly signed the agreement with his Rwandan counterpart, Vincent Biruta, saying it would address all the issues raised by the UK Supreme Court last month when it ruled that the policy was unlawful questioning refoulement or the sending back claimantst to the countries from where they were fleeing.
There is a lot of desire to continue to improve the process. The UK and Rwanda are working on this because it is important, Cleverly said at a joint press briefing in Kigali.
Biruta said Rwanda remained committed to the proposal and had no plans to withdraw support. Rwanda is very committed to this partnership and that is why we worked with the UK government to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court.
The agreement is believed to include commitments from Rwanda about how asylum-seekers and other migrants would be treated when arriving from Britain.
The UK government hopes that these will address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court in November.
President of the Supreme Court Robert Reed said Rwanda had a history of misunderstanding its obligations to refugees and of refoulement — sending claimants back to the country they had sought protection from, even if unsafe.
There is a real risk that asylum claims will not be determined properly, and that asylum-seekers will in consequence be at risk of being returned directly or indirectly to their country of origin, the judges said. In that event, genuine refugees will face a real risk of ill-treatment.
A deputy spokesman for Rwanda's government said the two countries would set up a joint tribunal with both Rwandan and UK judges in Kigali... to make sure that none of the immigrants sent to Rwanda is deported to their country.
The original agreement had envisaged sending to Rwanda anyone who makes dangerous or illegal journeys to Britain on small boats from Europe or hidden in lorries.
The two countries struck the deal in April 2022 for such migrants to be sent to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. If successful, they would stay in Rwanda.
The UK government claims that such deportations would discourage others from making the journeys and break the business model of people-smuggling gangs.
However opponents of the agreement with Rwanda say it is unethical and unworkable, with the opposition Labor's home affairs spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper, dismissing it as a gimmick, ahead of an electoral year.,
The UK Home Office itself has estimated that removing every asylum-seeker to a country such as Rwanda could cost £169,000 per person. Meanwhile Rwanda has already received an initial payment of £140 million, with the promise that more money would be sent to fund the accommodation and care of any people who are deported.