Will UK’s New Asylum Policy Around Rwanda Deportations Work?

British lawmakers last week approved the Safety of Rwanda Act, which designates Rwanda as a “safe” nation and instructs British courts to follow suit. Its goal is to enable the British government to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would be apprehended, held, and transported around four thousand kilometers to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

According to a multimillion-pound agreement announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April 2022, asylum seekers numbering in the “tens of thousands” will be able to board one-way flights to Kigali, Rwanda.

For decades, refugees seeking asylum in Britain have been sneaking into the country via the Channel Tunnel, often in trucks. The percentage of individuals crossing the English Channel in small boats has risen sharply due to increased security checks on those routes and a short drop in traffic during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Much disagreement has ensued in Britain about this practice due to its excellent visibility and potential dangers. Government officials asserted that the Rwanda policy would be beneficial by discouraging would-be asylum seekers by expelling some of those who had already reached Britain.

Both nations were asked to reconsider their intentions after human rights organizations and the UN refugee agency denounced the pact. The program was deemed unconstitutional by Britain’s top court in November of last year. The reasoning for the ruling was that deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, the site of a 2018 demonstration in which 12 Congolese refugees were shot dead by police, was not a safe option. Their lives might be in jeopardy.

After becoming prime minister in October 2022, Rashi Sunak promised to restore the policy. Last Monday, lawmakers in Rwanda enacted a measure that would declare the country safe, thereby nullifying the previous court verdict. Last week, an official said that the act makes it lawful to send people to Rwanda whether it is safe or not.

With the Conservatives behind Labour in the polls by 20 points and a general election due in January, the Rwanda policy serves a political purpose. Sunak has made a concerted effort to seem competent since assuming the position after Liz Truss’s dismal “mini-budget.” He urged voters that they should evaluate him based on whether he succeeded in 2023 in his goal of preventing small vessels from entering the harbor.