Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

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What’s in today’s article?

● Why in News?

● What is Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill?

● UK government’s policy on Rwanda

● Criticism of UK’s Rwanda plan

Why in News?

The UK parliament has finally passed a bill that will allow the government to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be considered by the East African nation.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had often emphasised the need for stopping the inflow of small boats coming to the country. These boats carry migrants who attempt to escape violence, persecution and instability in a range of countries.

What is Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill?

  • Need
    • The number of migrants arriving in Britain on small boats soared to 45,774 in 2022 from just 299 four years earlier.
    • This is because as people seeking refuge pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds (dollars) to ferry them across the channel.
  • About
    • The House of Lords, which is the upper house of parliament, passed the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.
    • It essentially says that Rwanda is a safe third country for the purposes of removing its individuals to Rwanda.
    • Under the new law, any asylum seekers who arrive illegally in Britain will be sent to Rwanda.
  • Bill is an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling
    • This bill is an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling by designating Rwanda as a safe destination.
    • In its ruling last year, Supreme Court of UK said that Rwanda couldn’t be relied upon to not mistreat asylum-seekers.
    • The court cited Rwanda’s abysmal human rights record, including enforced disappearances and torture.
    • In response to this argument, the Safety of Rwanda Bill was passed after the UK government signed a new treaty with Rwanda to beef up protections for migrants in December 2023.

UK government’s policy on Rwanda

  • In April 2022, then-UK PM Boris Johnson signed a deal with the Rwandan government on allowing the UK to send some asylum-seekers to Rwanda
    • The then govt hailed this move as one that would save countless lives from human trafficking, given the dangerous circumstances in which they attempt to enter the UK.
  • Under the scheme, people arriving in Britain as undocumented stowaways in trucks or boats would be flown 6,400 km to Rwanda.
    • Once there, they would be assessed for eventual resettlement there.
  • The UK government paid its Rwandan counterpart million of pounds for housing and integrating the migrants as part of the pilot scheme.
    • This scheme was to initially last for five years.
    • The process of integration would theoretically also involve supporting the migrants with access to training, healthcare, and shelter so they could resettle.

Criticism of UK’s Rwanda plan

  • The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had said that the asylum seekers must not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.
    • It highlighted the dangers of transferring refugees and asylum seekers to third countries without sufficient safeguards.
  • In 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stopped the first plane from departing the UK for Rwanda.
  • The opposition parties of UK have said that the Rwanda plan was costly and it did not focus on most of the immigrants coming in.

Q.1. What is Rwanda?

Rwanda, warmly known as "the land of a thousand hills'' is situated in East – central Africa. It lies 121 Km South (75 miles) of the equator in the Tropic of Capricorn, 1416 kilometers (880Miles) west of the Indian Ocean and 1250Km (777Miles) east of the Atlantic Ocean – literally the heart of Africa.

Q.2. What is United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)?

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is a global organization that helps people who have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict or persecution.