Despite Lords delays, UK Government sends out Rwanda deportation notices

As the nation began the bank holiday weekend last week, it has been revealed that the UK government has discreetly begun preparations to deport selected migrants to Rwanda at an unspecified date in the near future.

Dozens of asylum seekers have received notices over the last week to 10 days, informing them that there is a possibility that they could be removed to a ‘safe third country’. Recipients of the letter – mostly migrants who had been in the system for months or years without a determination, received the warning that in the event that their claim is deemed ‘inadmissible’, the immigration authority will then:

‘consider whether there are any other safe third countries where you would be safe and which agree to admit you’

Whilst the wording of the notices stops short of referencing Rwanda specifically, migration and human rights lawyers have formed the view that the UK government is now issuing the revised notices, in light of the Rwanda status change originally determined by the Supreme Court which declared Rwanda unsafe, but which is expected to be subsequently altered by the passage of the Asylum and Immigration Bill through parliament declaring Rwanda to be safe.

The UK government is optimistic that despite the consistent challenges by the House of Lords to the bill, that it will eventually pass to Royal assent, in time to see removals by the end of the spring. The Lords has done its best to thwart the bill, voting overwhelmingly for a substantial series of amendments on 20th and 21st March – sufficient to delay the second reading of the bill until after the Easter recess. This has ensured at least, that the bill cannot become law until at the earliest, mid April.

Most pundits believe that the successful implementation of the bill and the completion of one of Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak’s principal pledges – to stop the boats, will dictate the date of the next General Election.

The bill in its current form effectively pronounces Rwanda to be a safe place, a determination which many in the House of Lords stand in opposition to, as they have argued that it is essential for the government to have cognisance of the rule of law. The amendments proposed by the House of Lords, have consistently attempted to create a wider scope for legal challenge, insisting that the Bill has ‘due regard’ to both domestic and international law. 

It is of note that the Supreme Court ruling in November last year, which declared Rwanda as unsafe, relied heavily at the time, on the prevailing advice from the assessment and appraisal of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). A revised report/analysis published by the UNHCR in January this year – which took into account the implications and assurances within the UK-Rwanda Treaty and the proposed Asylum and Immigration Bill, determined that UK’s Rwanda policy:

‘does not meet the required standards [and] is not compatible with international refugee law’

Crucially, The Bill provides government ministers with the power to decide whether the UK needs to comply with any interim orders issued by the European Court for Human Rights in respect of a any decision to remove someone to Rwanda. This could mean that civil servants asked to carry out the requests of ministers, find themselves at odds with international law. Civil Service Unions have threatened action and the government has argued that ‘it is the responsibility of civil servants – operating under the Civil Service Code – to implement that decision’


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