A Closer Look Into Rishi's Rwanda Bill
By Miss M. Brown
The bill originated under Boris Johnson in a bid to reduce net migration. Illegal migration has been a thorn in Tories’ side in recent years, and so deportation of illegal migrants to Rwanda has hence become Rishi Sunak’s top priority as Prime Minister.
What is Illegal Migration?
Illegal migration essentially means ‘irregular’ migration, or migration by ‘irregular’ means. In essence, it means arriving in the UK without a visa.
But this is not a straightforward issue. Many people are forced to flee their homes due to conflict, poverty, or persecution to countries like the UK, often in overcrowded inflatable dinghies. By deporting these migrants to Rwanda, Sunak hopes to deter future migrants from crossing the English channel and therefore ‘stop the boats’ altogether.
In June 2022, a flight to Rwanda was scheduled to leave the UK. But just 3 hours before departure time, the European Court of Human Rights stepped in, stating that the policy hadn't been properly scrutinized by UK courts. Fast forward 18 months, and the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the policy unlawful. According to the court, Rwanda was not a safe third country and that there was a possibility that migrants could be sent back to the country they fled from: a violation of the human right to non-refoulment. The court was not convinced that migrants’ rights would be upheld In Rwanda.
What is in Sunak’s Rwanda Bill?
The government's bill essentially says that the courts must view Rwanda as safe. It also restricts people seeking asylum from invoking the 1998 Human Rights Act or international standards to challenge deportations. Additionally, if the European court attempts to intervene again, a minister must decide if flights proceed, limiting the court's usual jurisdiction.
Backbench Rebellions and Party Splits:
The Conservative party has faced a wave of unease and division over this bill. On one hand, Tory right-wingers say the bill doesn't go far enough. Indeed, Sunak faced a backbench revolt as 60 Conservatives including former Prime Minister Liz Truss and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman voted for an amendment to the bill which would altogether remove the ability for an asylum seeker to appeal to the courts if they believed deportation to Rwanda would harm them. The amendment, however, was rejected.
On the flip side, others in the party believe the bill goes too far and infringes on the independence of the courts by forbidding them from viewing Rwanda as unsafe. Political activity of this kind is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes, not liberal democracies.
The Future of the Bill
The bill’s fate now lies in the hands of the Lords, where Sunak will face a battle potentially tougher than in Commons. If passed, the bill may face further legal challenges down the line, including another ruling from the European Court.
HOW CAN THIS BE USED IN EXAMS? :
- Example of Backbench rebellion
- Judicial independence being threatened
- The role of courts in upholding human rights as governments sometimes compromise rights of certain groups in order to push through an agenda
- The role of the courts in interpreting and applying law (to rule that Rwanda scheme was unlawful)
- Legislative role of the Lords (which will become even more apparent in the next 2 months).