Rwanda takes issue with UK court ruling on safety of asylum seekers

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Rwanda takes issue with a recent ruling by the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal which, among others, ruled that the country is not a safe destination for asylum seekers and refugees, Yolande Makolo, the government spokesperson said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Makolo’s reaction came after three judges overturned a High Court ruling passed in December, 2022, that described the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as lawful and “consistent with the refugee convention.”

Dubbed “Migration and Economic Development Partnership”, the deal was initially established to allow migrants and asylum seekers who are illegally in the UK to be transferred to Rwanda.

A first of its kind in the world, the deal was also touted as part of the efforts to promote “the dignity and empowerment of migrants.”

While Thursday’s ruling is “ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system,” Makolo said, “we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees.”

For instance, she said, Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world and we have been recognized by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees.

“We make a significant contribution to dealing with the impacts of the global migration crisis. Rwandans know what it means to be forced to flee home, and to make a new life in a new country.”

“As a society, and as a government, we have built a safe, secure, dignified environment, in which migrants and refugees have equal rights and opportunities as Rwandans. Everyone relocated here under this partnership will benefit from this,” she added.

This is the latest court verdict in UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, a partnership that was inked in April, 2022, in Kigali.

“Rwanda remains fully committed to making this partnership work. The broken global migration system is failing to protect the vulnerable, and empowering criminal smuggling gangs at an immeasurable human cost. When the migrants do arrive, we will welcome them and provide them with the support they’ll need to build new lives in Rwanda,” Makolo added.

Announcing the ruling, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said he does not accept that migrants would be at risk of removal to their home countries from Rwanda.

The judge concluded: “The result is that the High Court’s decision that Rwanda was a safe third country is reversed, and unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum process are corrected, removal of asylum seekers will be unlawful.”

Lord Burnett, who heard the appeal with Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill, said the court ruled by a majority and he had agreed with a previous High Court ruling – but the two others did not.

The ruling has triggered mixed reactions, with some describing the judgment as “deeply disappointing,” while others pointed at taking it case by case.

Tory MP Simon Clark said the judgment is “deeply disappointing” and “I would anticipate an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court”.

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