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Don’t send asylum seekers to Rwanda – Falana writes British PM

Don’t send asylum seekers to Rwanda - Falana writes British PM %Post Title

Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has written a letter to the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, that he should halt the patently unlawful and discriminatory plan to send asylum seekers and refugees in the UK to Rwanda. Falana further asked the PM  to comply with the UK’s international legal obligations.

The largest nationality groups affected, according to Falana in his 13 June letter, seem to be Afghans, Iranians and Sudanese. “Sudanese refugees reportedly represent more than a third of those being sent to Rwanda.”

In the words of Falana: “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. The MoU foresees the transfer of “asylum seekers whose claims are not being considered by the United Kingdom, to Rwanda, which will process their claims and settle or remove (as appropriate) individuals after their claim is decided.”

Below is Falana’s letter:

13 June 2022

H.E Prime Minister Boris Johnson

10 Downing Street

London

UK

Dear Prime Minister Boris Johnson:

Re: Request to halt the patently unlawful and discriminatory plan to send asylum seekers and refugees in the UK to Rwanda and to comply with the UK’s international legal obligations

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.

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. The MoU foresees the transfer of “asylum seekers whose claims are not being considered by the United Kingdom, to Rwanda, which will process their claims and settle or remove (as appropriate) individuals after their claim is decided.”

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.

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.

Specifically, the MoU and the plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda blatantly violate the UK’s legal obligations under 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.

It is patently unlawful and discriminatory for the UK government to penalise asylum seekers and refugees who belong to a group of nationalities simply because of their alleged irregular entry into the UK. The MoU and plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda may also violate the internationally recognized right to non-refoulment, and lead to violations of other 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.

Therefore, sending asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, a country with an 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.

The  UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has already raised several 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.

Indeed, the Rwandese government has been accused by the UK and other Western countries of violating the human rights of its 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.

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.

While thanking you in advance for your attention, I look forward to continued dialogue on the issue.

Yours sincerely,

Femi Falana, SAN

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