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UK mulls sending lawyers to Rwanda for asylum seeker plan

The Home Office is considering sending UK government lawyers to Rwanda to address concerns about the legal system there.

• December 4, 2023

Cabinet minister Lucy Frazer on Monday said that British lawyers could be sent to Rwandan courts as part of a new treaty to finally implement the government’s plan to fly asylum seekers to the African nation.

Home Secretary James Cleverly is said to be close to finalising a treaty with Rwanda as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s goal of making the plan legally watertight following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the scheme.

Ms Frazer said the Home Office was looking “very carefully” at sending UK government lawyers to Rwanda to address concerns about the legal system there.

The Daily Telegraph reported that British lawyers could be sent to advise Rwandan judges, perhaps for specific asylum case hearings or longer periods, to help ensure asylum appeals were granted correctly.

However, Rwanda is unlikely to accept any arrangement that looks like colonial-style legal interference.

If a deal is reached, Mr Cleverly could head to Rwanda soon to sign the treaty, with domestic legislation also planned so the UK parliament could ensure the African nation would be a safe destination for asylum seekers arriving in Britain.

Ms Frazer was pressed on whether British lawyers could be stationed in Rwanda’s courts.

“There is an issue about processing, and I know that the Home Office is looking at that very carefully,” she told BBC Breakfast. “I know that the Home Secretary James Cleverly is now working with Rwanda on a new treaty, and we will be bringing forward legislation in due course.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court judgment on November 15, the government insisted it had been working on contingency measures and promised a treaty with Rwanda within days, along with emergency legislation in parliament, but neither has yet emerged.

There has been speculation that Rwanda is pushing for more money on top of the €140 million ($177.3 million) already committed to the scheme.

On Friday, Prime Minister Sunak met Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai.

He declined afterwards to say how much money he would spend to get the scheme off the ground. 


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