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What is the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda?

Home Secretary James Cleverly pictured in the Rwandan capital Kigali on 5 December 2023IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES

Home Secretary James Cleverly has signed a new treaty with Rwanda designed to address concerns about the government’s plan to send asylum seekers there.

In November, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the scheme was unlawful because of the risk that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda could be returned to their home countries, where they could face harm.

What is the UK’s new asylum treaty with Rwanda?

The government says this guarantees that any people sent to Rwanda to claim asylum are not at risk of being sent to a third country where they could face harm.

It also announced a new independent monitoring committee to ensure Rwanda complies with the treaty, and a new appeal body.

Reports have suggested that British lawyers may also be sent to the country to help strengthen its asylum system.

What did the Supreme Court say about the Rwanda policy?

Five leading judges said the Court of Appeal had been right to conclude in June that there had not been a proper assessment of whether Rwanda was a safe country for asylum seekers.

Court president Lord Reed said there was strong evidence to believe that genuine refugees sent to the country could be returned to their home countries where they could face persecution. In law, this is called “refoulment”.

This breaches part of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which prohibits torture and inhuman treatment. The UK is a signatory to the ECHR.

The judges also said the policy breaches safeguards in three British laws passed by Parliament during the last 30 years.

They cited concerns about Rwanda’s poor human rights record, and its past treatment of refugees.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) told the Court that the Rwandan government turned down100% of all asylum claims made by people from Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria between 2020 and 2022.

The Rwandan government rejected the judges’ conclusions, saying: “We take our humanitarian responsibilities seriously, and will continue to live up to them.”

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