Previously I wrote to you with my criticisms of the UK Government’s Bill aimed at overriding the November 2023 Supreme Court’s decision that Rwanda is an unsafe destination for asylum seekers.
Thank you for your response, dated January 11.
Response from MP Guy Opperman
You say “… the Government is taking decisive action to deem Rwanda a safe country notwithstanding UK and international law, and to end the merry-go-round of illegal migration delay tactics by migrants. The Bill builds on the treaty recently signed by the Home Secretary and the Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister, making clear in UK law that Rwanda is a safe country thereby answering all of the concerns of the Supreme Court.”
Home Office admits Rwanda has human rights issues
On the same day you signed the letter to me (11 Jan), The Times newspaper reported “Rwanda Bill: Home office admits country has Human Rights Issues”.’ On the same day the Guardian, and I newspaper report “that Home Secretary James Cleverly writes to MPs and Lords to convince them Rwanda is ‘safe’ but admits Kigali mistreats political opponents.”
The Guardian continues “Documents released on Thursday said that “while Rwanda is now a relatively peaceful country with respect for the rule of law, there are nevertheless issues with its human rights record around political opposition to the current regime, dissent and free speech”.
The assessment has come in a government policy statement sent by the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, to MPs and lords.
Within the policy statement, there is also an admission it could take months for Rwanda to pass a new asylum law that is needed to implement its new treaty with the UK, which the Prime Minister has made central in his effort to convince judges the scheme is lawful.
Evidence that Rwanda is not a safe country
You would have also received from James Cleverly the 2022 US government human rights report on Rwanda. This report notes that the Rwandan government “impeded the formation of political parties, restricted political party activities, and delayed or denied registration to local and international NGOs seeking to work on human rights, media freedom, or political advocacy”. Apparently In 2017 Rwandan voters elected Paul Kagame to a third seven-year term as president, with a reported 99% of the vote.
The report can be found here.
On 11 January the Guardian newspaper also reported that former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland, “tabled amendments to the safety of Rwanda bill. One amendment would remove clauses that declare the east African nation a safe country.”
15 January, UK grants Rwandans asylum
Today, 15 January, The cover story of I news was “UK grants Rwandans asylum – undermining claim that country is safe.”
The list the 213 individuals handed Rwanda notices last year was revealed to the I newspaper. At least three people who have been told they are at risk of deportation to Rwanda identify as LGBT+. Since the British government signed the deportation deal with Rwanda in 2022 six people from Rwanda have been granted asylum in Britain.
Guy, in your letter you say “I can assure you that the UK has a proud history of supporting those in need of protection and since 2015 we have welcomed 480,000 people through safe and legal routes from all over the world, as well as via country-specific routes from Syria, Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine.”
I agree, we have this proud history. This is why we cannot support a bill aimed at deporting those in need of protection to a country that will be unsafe for an unknown number of people needing protection.
I urge you to argue against the Bill.