UK should reconsider plans to deport asylum seekers in Rwanda, says UN human rights chief | Human Rights | Daily News Byte


The new UN human rights chief has urged the British government to reconsider its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, warning that similar “offshoring” schemes in the past had led to “deeply inhumane” treatment of refugees.

In his first public comments on the controversy since taking office two months ago, Volker Türk dismissed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s description of the £140m deal as “common sense”, saying it was also “too expensive” as well as being legally and ethically problematic. . “And unlikely to work.

“You cannot discharge your obligations as envisaged in another state [by the UK government]”It raises very serious concerns, both from an international human rights and international refugee law perspective,” Turk told the Guardian.

Asked if the government should go back to the drawing board, he said: “Yes, absolutely.”

The High Court ruled on Monday that the Conservatives’ plan to send people seeking protection in the UK to the central African country was legal, rejecting an appeal by a union of asylum seekers, charities and border officials to stop it.

The victory was partial, as the judges also said the government had failed to “properly consider the circumstances” of the eight people it tried to deport under the plan in June, in one case confusing the facts relating to a Syrian Kurd with another Syrian. . The court held “not an immaterial error”.

However, the Home Secretary was quick to announce her intention to pursue the partnership “on a scale and as soon as possible”. Suella Braverman claimed she was backed by the “overwhelming majority of the British people” in her desire to see an end to people-smuggling gangs facilitating asylum seekers’ Channel crossings.

More than 40,000 people crossed the Channel in small boats in 2022, the highest number since statistics began to be collected in 2018. Travel is dangerous: Four people died last week when their boat ran into trouble off the Kent coast.

Police forensic officers head to a forensic tent set up at the RNLI station on Dover harbor after a massive search and rescue operation was launched in the Channel off the coast of Dungeness.
Last week four people died when a small boat got into trouble in the Channel off the coast of Kent. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

Rwanda’s government has said it currently has the capacity to receive about 200 people – less than 0.5% of those who have crossed this year and rights groups say nowhere near large enough to be a deterrent.

Turk, who replaced Michelle Bachelet as the UN’s high commissioner for human rights in October, said there were “ways and means” for governments to tackle smuggling gangs and ensure those in need of protection get it.

But the Rwanda program probably won’t do either, he added.

“Of course, it sounds very dramatic to send people to Rwanda – but is it happening? [do] The trick?” he said. “Which means ensuring that those who need international refugee protection are accepted as such, and discouraging those who don’t from doing so? I highly doubt it, and history proves it if you just look at a few things [we] Seen in an Australian context.”

Turk, an Austrian lawyer and former assistant high commissioner for the UN refugee agency, said he had seen how Australia’s offshore processing centers on Nauru and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, were marked by human rights abuses. The latter was discontinued after the country’s Supreme Court declared it illegal.

“The way asylum seekers were treated on Nauru and Manus was deeply, deeply inhumane,” Turk said. The UK government rejects any comparison between the two schemes as “fundamentally false”, insisting that deportees’ asylum claims will be processed in accordance with international human rights law and that they will not be detained while that process is ongoing.

Reacting to the High Court ruling, the Prime Minister said he wanted to “provide a system whereby if you come to the UK illegally, you don’t have the right to remain and we can return you to your own country if it’s safe.” Or a safer alternative like Rwanda”.

Sunak declined to say whether his asylum plans might require the UK to leave the ECHR – video

He added: “I think, for the vast majority of the British public, that is the commonsense position.”

Speaking from Geneva, Turk said: “Certainly, from my perspective, it is not common sense.” He also called on the government to tone down its rhetoric and “emotional language”, having previously criticized Braverman’s “appalling” use of the word “aggression” to describe the cross-Channel crossing.

“It is not that there is no problem regarding irregular arrivals. It’s obvious and it’s an issue that has to be faced … but we have to get the emotions out, including some emotional language. We need to deal with it as an issue guided by international norms, international rights and international refugee law,” he said.

Despite the High Court’s ruling, there will be no immediate flight of asylum seekers to Kigali. More appeals are expected. A European Court of Human Rights injunction over the summer halted any deportations “until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in the ongoing judicial review proceedings”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our groundbreaking migration partnership with Rwanda will support displaced individuals to build new lives there, while disrupting the business model of people-trafficking gangs.

“It was found to be legal by the High Court on Monday and the Home Secretary is committed to acting to help prevent dangerous, illegal and unnecessary travel.

“The comparison between this policy and the Australian model is fundamentally wrong and inaccurate; Under our approach those sent to Rwanda are not detained but transferred and are free to leave if they wish.”


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