*Describes Move As patently unlawful and discriminatory
*Says Rwanda Has Poor Human Rights Record And Cannot Guarantee Protection Of Refugees
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Human Rights Activist, Femi Falana has written to the British Prime Minister in protest to the plan by the country to deport asylum seekers, refugees and other illegal migrants to Rwanda.
On the 14th of April 2022, the United Kingdom announced that under the UK and Rwanda’s new migration and economic development partnership, “[a]nyone entering the UK illegally, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1, may now be relocated to Rwanda.”
In a letter addressed to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and dated 13th of June 2022, Falana described the move as “patently unlawful and discriminatory” and urged the him to comply with the UK’s international legal obligations.
He wrote: “I am writing to urge you to provide the leadership necessary for the UK government to immediately halt the patently unlawful and discriminatory plan to send asylum seekers and refugees who flee conflict and persecution to Rwanda, and to comply with the UK’s international legal obligations.”
The Learned Silk continued, “I note that you announced on 14 April 2022 that under the UK and Rwanda’s new migration and economic development partnership, “[a]nyone entering the UK illegally, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1, may now be relocated to Rwanda.”
I also note that the UK government simultaneously published a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concluded with the government of Rwanda for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement.”
Falana in the letter also expressed concern the UK Government also plans to return refugees back to their conflict zones if they do not wish to be sent to the Rwanda.
“I am very concerned that the Home Office is offering to fly asylum seekers and refugees back to the conflict zones they escaped from in the first instance if they do not wish to be sent to Rwanda. According to my information, asylum seekers and refugees are being sent to Rwanda because of their method of reaching the UK – generally crossing the Channel to enter the UK. The largest nationality groups affected seem to be Afghans, Iranians and Sudanese. Sudanese refugees reportedly represent more than a third of those being sent to Rwanda.”
According to Falana, the move is incompatible and inconsistent with the UK’s international human rights obligations and urged the country not to abdicate her responsibilities and obligations towards refugees and transfer same responsibilities to another country.
He wrote: “This patently racist, unlawful and discriminatory plan is inconsistent and incompatible with the UK’s international human rights obligations, and commitments to refugees. The UK authorities cannot and should not escape their international legal obligations to asylum seekers and refugees and push to shift such obligations to another country.”
Falana listed the international legal frameworks on the protection of refugees which the UK has violated to include the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees; the Convention against Torture; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
You will agree with me that the MoU cannot be justified under international law as both UK and Rwanda are states parties to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
Falana also stressed that sending asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, a country with appalling human rights record will amount to double jeopardy for asylum seekers and refugees: denying them their internationally recognized human rights in the UK while also exposing them to the risks of grave human rights violations in Rwanda.
He said, The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has already raised a number of concerns about the asylum process in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum, a lack of legal representation and interpreters, and difficulties in launching an appeal.
He further noted: “Indeed, the Rwandese government has been accused by the UK and other Western countries of violating the human rights of its own people while also denying them access to justice and effective remedies. In the circumstances, it is the height of hypocrisy on the part of the UK to dump the refugees in Rwanda.”
Falana equally informed the UK Prime Minister of the unavailability of adequate legal protection and remedies for the deportees in Rwanda as the country has withdrawn its declaration to the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights urging the UK government to quickly halt the deportation process and provide adequate protection for the asylum seekers and refugees.
“As you are no doubt aware, the rights of the refugees to effective remedies cannot be guaranteed as Rwanda has withdrawn its declaration to the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which allows direct access of individuals and NGOs to the court.
“I therefore urge you to immediately halt any plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, and to fully and effectively respect, protect, promote and fulfil their human rights to equality, equal treatment and non-discrimination, consistent with the UK’s international legal obligations.”