Briefing on the Rwanda Safety Bill – Current debate in the House of Lords 

19 Feb, 2024 | Asylum and Detention, Latest, Stop the hostile environment

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Updated: 19th February 2024

René Cassin joined together with 265 civil society organisations in calling for the House of Lords to oppose The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill. As the Rwanda legislation contradicts both UK and international law, and was not part of the government’s manifesto, the House of Lords has a democratic duty to oppose the Bill. 

Background 

Last year, the government’s Rwanda Asylum Plan was ruled unlawful by the UK’s High Court. The scheme would send asylum seekers who have reached the UK to Rwanda to have their claims processed there. If approved, they would be allowed to live in Rwanda, which is an authoritarian one-party state, with an alarming human rights track record, including in its treatment of minority groups.   

In response, the UK government is currently trying to pass the Safety of Rwanda Bill

This bill would make it illegal for British courts to acknowledge that Rwanda does not have sufficient mechanisms for processing asylum claims and that it is unsafe for refugees.  

Why Should We Care? 

Over the past two decades the UK’s human rights framework has been continuously weakened by consecutive governments. We are now at a breaking point where further disregard for the welfare and safety of asylum seekers and refugees could see the UK fall out of international treaties and commitments. Britain, which became a safe haven for so many Jews escaping persecution, is at risk of losing its reputation as a society that is welcoming to those escaping persecution. The Jewish community, too, is at risk when such inhumane and unnecessary laws as the Rwanda Bill are passed because it emboldens hostility to minorities in society.  

The Rwanda policy is not only cruel to those seeking asylum, but it also threatens civil liberties in the UK. The bill will start a dangerous precedent, which gives the government power over the judiciary and rule of law. The bill, in its current state, includes a clause stating that it is “for ministers to decide whether to comply” with rulings from the European Court for Human Rights. The only two other European states to show such a brazen disregard of human rights legal rulings are Russia and Belarus.  

As Jews, we have experience of seeking refuge in foreign countries in circumstances where to be sent back would mean certain death.  

What’s Next? 

The bill was ratified in the Lords last week despite strong opposition and will begin to be scrutinised by House of Lords committees starting from next week. This is a crucial point at which amendments to the bill may be suggested.  

There is a threat that the House of Lords will have certain powers removed in response to this. But there is no convention or law that requires the House of Lords to back the bill. Rather, they have a moral and legal obligation to do what they can to stop this. 

At René Cassin we find strength in the widespread Jewish support for human rights issues. As a community we feel that it is vital we work together in protecting the rights, freedoms and wellbeing of others.  

With the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in such peril at the moment, we urge our supporters to write to your MP expressing concern over this illegal and inhumane legislation.  

About René Cassin  

www.renecassin.org 

 René Cassin is a UK human rights charity (Reg No 1117472), named after the French-Jewish co-author of the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. René Cassin works to promote and protect universal rights drawing on Jewish experience and Jewish values. René Cassin works: 

 • within the Jewish community – by building support for human rights values amongst British Jews.  

• in the wider community – by bringing the authority of a Jewish perspective on issues that resonate with Jewish experience.  

Contact us at info@renecassin.org 

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