James Cleverly, the third home secretary in under two years, has signed an agreement with the Rwandan government hoping that it will allow asylum seekers to be sent to the east African country.
This follows the supreme court’s ruling that the plan was unlawful.
According to the government, the new treaty addresses legal concerns by forbidding refoulement, where refugees are sent back to countries where they have suffered persecution or other harms. There will also be a monitoring committee to allow “confidential complaints” and to scrutinise reception conditions, the processing of asylum claims and the treatment of asylum seekers. A new appeal body will be set up consisting of judges of different nationalities with appropriate expertise.
However, it is far from clear whether these measures will ensure the legality of the scheme. Sir Geoffrey Robertson KC told the BBC’s World at One that the treaty did not deal with many of the issues identified by the supreme court, including Rwanda’s discriminatory policies towards LGBTQ people.
There is growing pressure from Conservative right-wingers on Rishi Sunak to enable the Rwanda scheme by leaving the European convention on human rights, but Sir Geoffrey pointed out that refugee rights were also enshrined in UK law, and by the internationally recognised 1951 Refugee Convention.