Human Rights Watchdog Tells UK to Halt Plans for Rwanda Flights

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, Israel

Mary ManleyThe Council of Europe has asked that the UK process asylum claims in their country as opposed to sending asylum seekers to Rwanda where they could face human rights violations. In a report published on Thursday by the council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, it warned that the UK’s Illegal Migration Act as well as the relationship between the two countries “raise multiple concerns over the treatment of vulnerable persons”. The watchdog found that the bill would make the removal of asylum seekers and refugees without valid visas easier because it would strip away a “series of fundamental safeguards”.In their report, they found that the UK wants to increase the number of asylum seekers who are detained before they are deported to Rwanda. Right now, the UK has 2,245 detention spaces and wants to add another 1,000. The bill also allows for children to be detained for possible deportation to Rwanda which was previously ended in the UK but has since been reintroduced.The report also raised concerns about the UK’s practice of indefinite immigration detention which includes keeping an immigrant with a criminal conviction in prison rather than moving them to detention centers after the end of their sentence.WorldSunak Loses Support of Two Conservative Vice-Chairmen in Rwanda Bill Rebellion17 January, 00:11 GMTThe report found that their deportation could expose asylum seekers to torture as well as inhuman or degrading treatment. And it raised concerns about the mental health of detainees, especially those who are victims of torture or at risk of suicide and are measured as such by a process called rule 35. After they are granted bail, this rule 35 categorization is no longer included in official statistics, even if the person remains in a detention center. So those who are unfit for prolonged detention could still be subjected to it.The report follows an 11-day visit to the UK in March and April of last year by the watchdog group.But in response to the council, unnamed UK officials rebuffed the report’s claims.

“The UK government does not recognize much of the content of this report and feels it does not accurately reflect the important work we undertake to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those in our care,” the officials said, according to a report.

The UK’s Illegal Migration Act is one which UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been struggling to push through, even after the UK Supreme Court halted one of the bill’s first drafts, ruling that it was unlawful. And recently, members of Parliament and peers of Sunak have also warned that the bill is “fundamentally incompatible” with the country’s human rights obligations, and would defy international law.

In March of last year, the council’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) expressed concern that the UK’s Illegal Migration Act lacked compliance with some of their core elements. They also emphasized that the legislation would amount to a significant step backwards in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK.


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