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Rishi Sunak relaunches plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

The prime minister today held a press conference to urge MPs to back his Rwanda asylum plan, after Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick quit over the revised policy, alleging it "did not go far enough".

Background
In April 2022, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a scheme to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, in east Africa, for processing. Subsequently, Rishi Sunak has made it part of his pledge to "stop the boats", claiming it will deter people from crossing the English Channel.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the policy was unlawful, as Rwanda could not be classified as a safe country. Further, it was ruled there was a risk of breaching the principle "non-refoulement" (the idea that an asylum-seeker should not be returned to their country of origin if they would be at risk of harm), which is well established under both UK and international human rights law.

This week's events
On Tuesday, a new treaty was signed with Rwanda which prevents the risk of 'refoulement'. Yesterday, Robert Jenrick resigned as immigration minister, and today Rishi Sunak held the press conference and the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill had its first reading.

The bill (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/3540)
The bill has come under heavy criticism already, and Sunak is under pressure from various factions within the Tory party, notably the One Nation group (as the more centrist and moderate wing of the party) and the European Research Group (ERG) (an influential group of Brexiteer MPs on the right wing of the party).

The bill will force the courts to classify Rwanda as a safe country and to ignore certain provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 (a piece of UK law) and certain pieces of international law - such as the ECHR and the the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984 - when considering appeals against a decision to send an asylum seeker to Rwanda.

What do you think to the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill? Do you agree with what the government is trying to do?
(edited 2 months ago)
What I personally find telling is that at the start of the bill, James Cleverly states that he is unable to declare that the bill is compatible with the ECHR. (For information, a declaration as to whether a bill is compatible or whether the minister is unable to make a declaration of compatibility is required under s19 of the Human Rights Act 1998).

If the bill passes in its present form, all I can see this resulting in is lengthy court battles, particularly with the European Court of Human Rights. If that were to happen then it is also possible that the Supreme Court might make a declaration of incompatibility. In theory this should result in the government asking parliament to amend the offending legislation, but it is highly doubtful the government would do this given how hard Sunak is pushing this policy.

I also find it hypocritical that the government is trying to push through legislation that is clearly going to result in human rights breaches if passed. The UK was a key player in introducing the ECHR - British MP and lawyer Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe led the drafting and UK was the first country to ratify the ECHR in 1951. The UK also freely entered into the Refugee Convention and the United Nations' ban on torture, which are both pieces of international law the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill will force the courts to ignore when considering appeals. It feels like the government just believes it can do what it likes and ride roughshod over the obligations that the UK not only signed up for but was instrumental in creating!
Reply 2
I've never seen the Rwanda deal as anything more than about grabbing positive headlines in certain newspapers. I'm simply not convinced it will substantially deter people from entering the UK to claim asylum or result in many being transported there.

We are being pummelled by high taxes, we are seeing our public services crumble due to lack of investment or reform, we have seen economic stagnation over the last decade and more. Conservatives don't seem all that exercised about these big issues but the hill that they are willing die on is sending a small proportion of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Would a Conservative supporter be willing to explain why Rwanda is the fundamental issue for them right now?
I feel like the melodrama about whether specific treaties or all treaties should be disregarded is not really seeing the wood from the trees, and it's bizarre to hear those politicians who don't think the bill goes far enough to come out and suggest that if only the Rwanda Bill went further it would completely stop the boats.

There isn't enough capacity in Rwanda to send all the people crossing the Channel in small boats anyway, and the calculation is simply that by threatening Rwanda people will be deterred from wanting to make the trip. (I guess in that regard, the less safe Rwanda appears the higher the deterrent effect would be!) I frankly don't see how it ever serves as a bigger deterrent than the risks to life taken by crossing the Channel in a small boat.

It feels like a matter of principle rather than practicality at this point, and it's causing ructions in the government over a policy that nobody knows will even work even if it can be executed as the government would like it to.
Original post by Gazpacho.
I've never seen the Rwanda deal as anything more than about grabbing positive headlines in certain newspapers. I'm simply not convinced it will substantially deter people from entering the UK to claim asylum or result in many being transported there.

We are being pummelled by high taxes, we are seeing our public services crumble due to lack of investment or reform, we have seen economic stagnation over the last decade and more. Conservatives don't seem all that exercised about these big issues but the hill that they are willing die on is sending a small proportion of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Would a Conservative supporter be willing to explain why Rwanda is the fundamental issue for them right now?


To be honest I think that even for conservatives Rwanda isn’t the thing to care about right now (as in it’s not at the forefront of their minds).

I’m not conservative though (I’m “conservative” on certain topics but I’m mostly libertarian or progressive overall).
Reply 5
Original post by CatusStarbright
What I personally find telling is that at the start of the bill, James Cleverly states that he is unable to declare that the bill is compatible with the ECHR. (For information, a declaration as to whether a bill is compatible or whether the minister is unable to make a declaration of compatibility is required under s19 of the Human Rights Act 1998).

If the bill passes in its present form, all I can see this resulting in is lengthy court battles, particularly with the European Court of Human Rights. If that were to happen then it is also possible that the Supreme Court might make a declaration of incompatibility. In theory this should result in the government asking parliament to amend the offending legislation, but it is highly doubtful the government would do this given how hard Sunak is pushing this policy.

I also find it hypocritical that the government is trying to push through legislation that is clearly going to result in human rights breaches if passed. The UK was a key player in introducing the ECHR - British MP and lawyer Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe led the drafting and UK was the first country to ratify the ECHR in 1951. The UK also freely entered into the Refugee Convention and the United Nations' ban on torture, which are both pieces of international law the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill will force the courts to ignore when considering appeals. It feels like the government just believes it can do what it likes and ride roughshod over the obligations that the UK not only signed up for but was instrumental in creating!

I think your later point is well informed however you miss the point that many conservatives today (me included) no longer consider the refugee conventions fit for purpose. Suella wasn't lying when she said that current rules would technically make a few hundred million people eligible.

Likewise, I'm sure you can understand that many conservative voters who voted to end being under jurisdiction of a foreign court now find it grating that the sovereign parliament of the United Kingdom funds itself beset with a refugee crisis because of the musings of yet another foreign court infringing upon it's sovereignty.
Reply 6
Original post by Gazpacho.
I've never seen the Rwanda deal as anything more than about grabbing positive headlines in certain newspapers. I'm simply not convinced it will substantially deter people from entering the UK to claim asylum or result in many being transported there.

We are being pummelled by high taxes, we are seeing our public services crumble due to lack of investment or reform, we have seen economic stagnation over the last decade and more. Conservatives don't seem all that exercised about these big issues but the hill that they are willing die on is sending a small proportion of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Would a Conservative supporter be willing to explain why Rwanda is the fundamental issue for them right now?

The answer to your later point is partly that it's a small piece of much larger immigration reform required however more importantly for Sunak, it's a wedge issue for 2019 Tory voters.

2019 Tory voters consider immigration more important than the average voter and Rwanda has about 75% support among 2019 Tory voters.

The maths for Sunak is simple on such issues, if he can find a way to retain about 90% of 2019 Tories then he remains Prime Minister. At about 85%, Starmer no longer has his majority.

He will likely fail because as you say, the economy takes priority but the logic is not entirely flawed.
Reply 7
Original post by Saracen's Fez
I feel like the melodrama about whether specific treaties or all treaties should be disregarded is not really seeing the wood from the trees, and it's bizarre to hear those politicians who don't think the bill goes far enough to come out and suggest that if only the Rwanda Bill went further it would completely stop the boats.

There isn't enough capacity in Rwanda to send all the people crossing the Channel in small boats anyway, and the calculation is simply that by threatening Rwanda people will be deterred from wanting to make the trip. (I guess in that regard, the less safe Rwanda appears the higher the deterrent effect would be!) I frankly don't see how it ever serves as a bigger deterrent than the risks to life taken by crossing the Channel in a small boat.

It feels like a matter of principle rather than practicality at this point, and it's causing ructions in the government over a policy that nobody knows will even work even if it can be executed as the government would like it to.

I think the key with Rwanda is both the principal but also that if Rwanda is a success then it opens the door to multiple locations to increase scale. The idea is apparently being followed by several European states.

I do think it has become a bigger issue for Tory voters than Sunak expected originally when he let Braverman have her play thing but as alluded to above, that also gives him a small chance of making political capital.
Reply 8
Original post by Rakas21
The answer to your later point is partly that it's a small piece of much larger immigration reform required however more importantly for Sunak, it's a wedge issue for 2019 Tory voters.

2019 Tory voters consider immigration more important than the average voter and Rwanda has about 75% support among 2019 Tory voters.

The maths for Sunak is simple on such issues, if he can find a way to retain about 90% of 2019 Tories then he remains Prime Minister. At about 85%, Starmer no longer has his majority.

He will likely fail because as you say, the economy takes priority but the logic is not entirely flawed.


By Tory voters considering immigration more important, do you mean they are supportive of high levels of immigration placing a strain on our public services and infrastructure?

Such voters did vote for the very government that pushed net migration to a record high and created a massive backlog of asylum case that we've had to foot the hotel bill for.

This is what I don't understand about Conservative voters. They repeatedly back a party that harms Britain.
(edited 2 months ago)
I am very sympathetic towards Robert Jenrick and agree that the revisions do not go far enough.

I am fiercely in agreement with stopping the boats and decimating the profitable operations of traffickers & smuggler gangs.
I believe that the government must do its utmost to prevent the entry of all overseas citizens who either: do not have prior permission to enter the uk nor the accomodation & financial funds to support themselves whilst within the uk, have obtained visas dishonestly, flout the terms of their legitimately obtained visa, have committed a crime in the uk against a uk resident citizen or know that they are ineligible to enter/stay/work in Britain but refuse to leave.

This requires enforcing a very tough immigration regime and criminal court system.
One that harshly punishes the: trafficking criminals laughing all the way to the bank, their partners in crime and the entitled overseas citizen customers that have imposed themselves or their relatives upon uk territories & uk residents.

Ultimately getting this done will require a lot more enforcement action against people traffickers, their organised crime allies and other partners in crime.
In addition to the UK: leaving the jurisdiction of the ECHR, terminating the uk's status as a signatory of the Refugee Convention and changing the eligibility criterias for all uk welfare benefits & access to accomodation (outside of the incarceration and detention systems) in order to ensure that no overseas citizens can ever access any whilst within uk territories.
Original post by Rakas21
I think your later point is well informed however you miss the point that many conservatives today (me included) no longer consider the refugee conventions fit for purpose. Suella wasn't lying when she said that current rules would technically make a few hundred million people eligible.

Likewise, I'm sure you can understand that many conservative voters who voted to end being under jurisdiction of a foreign court now find it grating that the sovereign parliament of the United Kingdom funds itself beset with a refugee crisis because of the musings of yet another foreign court infringing upon it's sovereignty.

Brexit was about way more than the CJEU however! It's also rather silly to say that the the ECtHR infringes upon UK sovereignty, because the UK is subject to it only because it chooses to be. It is within our rights to withdraw from the Convention and thus the jurisdiction of the ECtHR if we so choose, though I would strongly disagree with any proposal to do so.
Reply 11
Original post by londonmyst
I am very sympathetic towards Robert Jenrick and agree that the revisions do not go far enough.

I am fiercely in agreement with stopping the boats and decimating the profitable operations of traffickers & smuggler gangs.
I believe that the government must do its utmost to prevent the entry of all overseas citizens who either: do not have prior permission to enter the uk nor the accomodation & financial funds to support themselves whilst within the uk, have obtained visas dishonestly, flout the terms of their legitimately obtained visa, have committed a crime in the uk against a uk resident citizen or know that they are ineligible to enter/stay/work in Britain but refuse to leave.

This requires enforcing a very tough immigration regime and criminal court system.
One that harshly punishes the: trafficking criminals laughing all the way to the bank, their partners in crime and the entitled overseas citizen customers that have imposed themselves or their relatives upon uk territories & uk residents.

Ultimately getting this done will require a lot more enforcement action against people traffickers, their organised crime allies and other partners in crime.
In addition to the UK: leaving the jurisdiction of the ECHR, terminating the uk's status as a signatory of the Refugee Convention and changing the eligibility criterias for all uk welfare benefits & access to accomodation (outside of the incarceration and detention systems) in order to ensure that no overseas citizens can ever access any whilst within uk territories.

Just on the last bit, whilst i dont disagree per-se, the likelihood of perverse outcomes of such a policy could not be higher. I.e. when said people do arrive here and find they cant get any money for food they will absolutely resort to crime which is not really to our benefit. Or just starve to death, equally not to our benefit.
Its a poor choice, we shouldn't be giving migrants any public funds but the alternatives aren't stellar. On the other hand, the argument can be made theyre rich enough already, people traffickers arent cheap after all, and they should be dumped onto the next hulk setting sail for the Horn to return them which i guess i where your point on ditching a couple of these conventions comes into play. after all, theyre manifestly being abused at present unfortunately.
Voting happening now:

(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 13
Sunak won this round.

About 60 abstentions, majority about 44, about 20 opposition votes it appears.

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