The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the human-rights watchdog in the United Kingdom, has raised concerns about the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill proposed by Rishi Sunak, warning that it undermines the universality of human rights.
The EHRC emphasizes that human rights should be guaranteed for all individuals, regardless of their circumstances. The proposed legislation, which is a cornerstone of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s agenda, is facing its first major challenge in the House of Lords today, where peers will debate the bill.
Sunak views the passage of this law as crucial to winning over voters ahead of the upcoming general election by demonstrating his ability to “stop the boats” and control immigration.
Previous attempts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda were blocked by the courts, as it was deemed an unsafe destination for them. However, the government hopes that once the bill passes, flights will be able to commence by spring.
In a statement issued before the debate, the EHRC expressed its concerns to its peers, emphasizing the universality of human rights.
The Human Rights Act (HRA) has significantly improved human rights protections in the UK, but the Safety of Rwanda Bill undermines this universality by displaying core provisions of the HRA.
The EHRC further highlights that the home secretary has been unable to confirm that the bill complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.
By disapplying sections of the HRA and seeking to prevent courts from considering the risk of refoulement, the Safety of Rwanda Bill could potentially expose individuals to harm and violate their right to life, their rights to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to an effective remedy.
The concept of “refoulement” played a central role in the previous court rulings that deemed the attempts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda unlawful. Refoulement refers to the concern that individuals sent from the UK to Rwanda may then be sent by Rwanda back to the country they initially fled.
Downing Street, in response to the EHRC’s concerns, stated that the bill is a crucial part of their strategy to combat violent criminal gangs who target vulnerable individuals, a situation that has tragically resulted in numerous deaths in the English Channel.
It is essential to carefully consider the potential consequences and human rights implications of any legislation related to asylum and immigration. The EHRC’s concerns highlight the need to ensure that the rights of all individuals, including asylum seekers, are respected and protected.
The UK has a proud history of upholding human rights, and any legislation must align with this commitment. The EHRC’s warning serves as a reminder that the universality of human rights should be upheld and protected for all individuals, regardless of their immigration status or background.