LONDON (AP) — Britain’s home secretary said Thursday that the British government could revive its blockades plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda without violating international law, the first flights will start next year.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said the government was “absolutely committed” to starting deportation flights from Rwanda ahead of national elections that must be scheduled by the end of 2024.
Many legal experts said that was wishful thinking, and critics called on the government to abandon a plan that they said would cost millions and damage Britain’s international reputation.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will make its decision on Wednesday rejected the government’s planRwanda is not a safe country to which migrants can be sent. Britain’s top court said asylum seekers face a “real risk of ill-treatment” and could be sent back from Rwanda to the home countries they fled.
Despite the judges’ unanimous ruling, the British government tightened policies that it says will deter people from around the world from making life-threatening trips With small boats across the English Channel.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would sign a deal with the Rwandan government to plug gaps in the plan, including a bar on Rwanda sending migrants home. Once this risk is eliminated, the government will pass a law through parliament declaring Rwanda a safe country.
Sunak also said he was prepared to “rethink” international relations to remove “obstacles” if the deportation policy continues to be blocked. Some members of the ruling Conservative Party want the prime minister to expel the country from the European Convention on Human Rights if the Rwanda plan fails.
Cleverly said he believed the plan could come into force without Britain leaving the European convention. The only countries that have ever withdrawn from the human rights treaty are Russia – which was expelled after invading Ukraine – and Belarus.
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” Cleverly told the BBC. “We are taking action to address the specific deficiencies in the ruling … to ensure that we are consistent with international law.”
He said the government is confident that “the legally binding treaty, binding on both countries, will be robust and resolve the issues raised by the Supreme Court.”
Legal experts were skeptical. Jonathan Sumption, a former U.K. Supreme Court justice who is considered a Conservative, said the government’s strategy “won’t work” because the government is asking Parliament to “change the facts.”
“The courts reviewed hundreds of pages of documents to reach this conclusion. It would be truly extraordinary constitutionally if Parliament simply said: “The facts are different,” Sumption told the BBC.
Refugee rights expert David Cantor said if the government did not heed the Supreme Court it would set “a very dangerous precedent.”
“Theoretically, the government can legislate that black is white or the moon is made of cheese or whatever. That doesn’t make it true,” said Cantor, who leads the Refugee Law Initiative at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study.
“The mere entry into force of a treaty does not change the assessment of facts made by the Supreme Court… which made it very, very clear that there are systemic deficiencies in the Rwandan system in determining refugee status and protecting refugees.”
It has been more than a year and a half since the United Kingdom made a deal with Rwanda to send migrants who arrive in the UK as stowaways or in boats to the East African country, where their asylum applications would be processed and, if successful, they would stay.
Britain says this will deter people from traveling and destroy the business model of people smuggling gangs. Critics say it is both unethical and unworkable to send migrants to a country 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) away with no chance of ever settling in the UK
Human rights groups have been accusing the Rwandan government of this for years take tough action over perceived disagreements and the tight control of many aspects of life, from jailing critics to keeping homeless people off the streets of Kigali. The government denies it.
No one was sent to Rwanda because the plan was challenged in the British courts and the policy is controversial even among conservatives. Cleverly, a former foreign minister who was appointed interior minister in a government reshuffle on Monday did not deny that he had once described the Rwanda plan – using a vulgar term – as crazy.
Although Britain receives fewer asylum applications than countries such as Italy, France or Germany, thousands of migrants from around the world travel to northern France every year in the hope of receiving asylum applications Crossing the English Channel. More than 27,300 have done so so far this year.
Sunak has made sure “the boats stop” one of his most important promises ahead of a national election coming next year. He hopes the progress can help the party close a large poll gap with the Labor opposition.
Cleverly said the government was confident deportation flights to Rwanda would be halted before the election – but he acknowledged that “the timelines we are looking at may vary depending on the circumstances.”
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