UK signs new migration treaty with Rwanda to evade courts

Wednesday December 06 2023

Britain's Home Secretary James Cleverly (L) and Rwanda's Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta exchange documents after signing a new treaty in Kigali, Rwanda on December 5, 2023. PHOTO | AFP


Britain and Rwanda signed a new treaty on Tuesday in a bid to revive a controversial proposal by London to transfer migrants to the country.

The agreement was signed by Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta and British interior minister James Cleverly, who travelled to Kigali to salvage London's stalled bid to send migrants to Rwanda after the UK Supreme Court blocked an earlier arrangement as unlawful.

The judges sided with a lower court decision that the policy was incompatible with Britain's international obligations because Kigali could forcibly return migrants to places where they could face persecution.

Read: UK Supreme Court blocks Rwanda migrant deal

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had vowed to persevere with the contentious project by securing the new treaty, vowing to "address concerns" raised in the Supreme Court's ruling last month.

"There is a lot of desire to continue to improve the process. The UK and Rwanda are working on this because it is important," Cleverly said at a joint press briefing in Kigali.


"Rwanda is very committed to this partnership and that is why we worked with the UK government to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court", Biruta added.

"We do not have plans to withdraw from this partnership."

Alain Mukuralinda, deputy spokesman for Rwanda's government, said the two countries would "set up a joint tribunal with both Rwandan and UK judges in Kigali... to make sure that none of the immigrants sent to Rwanda is deported to their country."

"This tribunal will have to be approved and voted (on) by parliaments from both countries," he added.

Further details of the new agreement were not available but British media reports said it would include commitments by Rwanda regarding the treatment of asylum-seekers and other migrants sent there.

Read: UK to pursue new migrant deal with Rwanda

The UK Supreme Court decision last month was a major setback for Sunak, who also plans to pass "emergency legislation" in parliament to designate Rwanda a safe country to end the "merry-go-round" of legal challenges.

"I'm fed up with our Rwanda policy being blocked," Sunak wrote in The Sun tabloid Tuesday.

"I've got the government working on emergency laws to end the merry-go-round so that we can fix this problem once and for all -- and stop the boats."

A UK-Rwanda migration "partnership" agreed in April last year envisaged sending to Kigali anyone who has made what London calls "dangerous or illegal journeys" to Britain on small boats from Europe or hidden in lorries.

The first deportees were aboard a plane to fly there in June 2022 when a last-minute European Court of Human Rights injunction prevented any deportations, prompting the further legal challenges.