Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Independent human rights experts* today welcomed the decision by the newly elected UK Government to scrap the policy to transfer asylum seekers who meet certain conditions to Rwanda for asylum processing.

“We are encouraged to learn that the UK plans to reassume State responsibility for receiving and assessing individual asylum applications domestically,” the experts said.

“This is an important step to ensure the right to asylum and protection of the human rights of all migrants and refugees seeking protection in the UK, regardless of how they arrive.”

The UK Government first announced a new Migration and Economic Development Partnership with the Government of Rwanda (UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership) in 2022. In November 2023, the UK Supreme Court held that the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership was unlawful on the basis that Rwanda could not be considered to be a safe third country owing to its past practice of refoulement. In response to that ruling, the two Governments subsequently signed the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Treaty on 5 December 2023, which was later ratified by the UK Parliament in April 2024. The UK Government also published the Safety of Rwanda Bill in December 2023 to require all decision-makers in the UK to conclusively treat Rwanda as a safe third country, which the UK Parliament passed into law on 23 April 2024.

Since the UK-Rwanda policy was announced in 2022, UNHCR, OHCHR, and several UN human rights mechanisms have repeatedly raised concerns that the controversial asylum arrangement between the UK and Rwanda was not in accordance with the UK’s obligations under both international human rights and refugee law.

“Two years after the initial announcement of the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership, it is a relief that the UK Government has finally made a courageous decision to abort the controversial plan,” the experts said. “The plan would have externalised the UK’s asylum obligations and posed serious human rights risks for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and would have also undermined the international protection system more broadly.”

The experts said they look forward to learning about new measures and reforms in migration and asylum governance in the UK.

“We reiterate our call to the UK Government to ensure that border governance measures, including those aimed at addressing unsafe and irregular arrivals of migrants, fully respect international human rights and refugee law,” they said.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).