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Council of Europe slams UK asylum pact with Rwanda

The Council of Europe, a European rights body, has sharply criticised the United Kingdom for its controversial asylum pact with Rwanda.

• April 23, 2024
African refugees
African refugees used to illustrate the story

The Council of Europe, a European rights body, has sharply criticised the United Kingdom for its controversial asylum pact with Rwanda.

“The United Kingdom government should refrain from removing people under the Rwanda policy and reverse the Bill’s effective infringement of judicial independence,” said the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

He said the law raises questions about the human rights of asylum seekers and the rule of law in general.

The Council of Europe is independent of the EU and was founded in 1949 to protect democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

The British bill, approved by the House of Lords on Tuesday after lengthy opposition, declares Rwanda a safe third country by law. In doing so, the government wants to prevent appeals against deportations before British courts.

The asylum pact with Rwanda stipulates that irregular migrants will no longer be able to apply for asylum in the UK. Instead, they will be taken to Rwanda and apply for asylum there.

The regulation is intended to deter people from crossing the English Channel in small boats. However, opponents doubt that the law will deter migrants.

“Managing asylum and migration is undoubtedly a complex endeavour for states, but it must always be done in full compliance with international standards,” Mr O’Flaherty said.

The British law “is another representation of an ongoing trend towards externalisation of asylum and migration policy in Europe, which is a matter of concern for the global system of protection of the rights of refugees,” he said.

In 2022, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), part of the Council of Europe, prevented the UK from sending asylum seekers of different nationalities by plane to Rwanda. 


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