Leading human rights experts call on UK government to prevent violations of human rights obligations under the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement
2 September 2022
Leading UK human rights and torture prevention experts, including members of the University of Bristol Law School’s Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC), have led a call expressing concerns about the UK government’s plans to deport refugees under the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement.
In an open letter to the Home Secretary, torture prevention experts - including the Law School’s Professor Rachel Murray, Professor Judy Laing, and Dr Debra Long - warn that the proposed plans to remove refugees arriving in the UK to Rwanda are incompatible with the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and international human rights law.
The signatories highlight how the plans undermine both the UK’s responsibility to prevent torture and ill treatment as well as the crucial role of mechanisms in the UK and Rwanda to discharge this responsibility.
The letter sets out how the Rwanda deportation process is inherently degrading, with a lack of access to justice and an increased likelihood of trauma, and revictimisation, for asylum seekers experiencing a rushed and inadequate process leading to removal to a distant country where procedural failings continue.
Obligations to prevent ill treatment require independent monitoring and both Rwanda and the UK have ratified the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and have duties under it to ensure effective monitoring of all detention, escort and deportation places and processes.
However, research shows there is a significant likelihood of ill treatment occurring during the removal process to Rwanda. Ongoing reports that media freedom and other civil and political rights are frustrated in Rwanda raise concerns that it will be difficult to monitor and confirm if Rwanda is meeting its obligations under international refugee and human rights law to protect refugees from inhuman and degrading treatment, and other human rights violations.
Although the proposed plans do not relieve the UK of its responsibilities under international law towards asylum-seekers transferred to Rwanda, it is still unclear whether there is adequate independent monitoring in place to cover all aspects of the detention, escort and deportation process, as well as the asylum status resolving process once individuals are in Rwanda.
Update: View the response from the Home Office Migration and Economic Development Partnership Team, dated 10 October 2022:
Home Office response to HRIC open letter on UK Rwanda process (PDF, 132kB)
The Human Rights Implementation Centre (HRIC) at the University of Bristol Law School is a leading institution for the implementation of human rights, that works in collaboration with a number of organisations and bodies, including those in the United Nations, the African Union, the Council of Europe, as well as with governments and organisations at the national level.
Our LLM in Human Rights Law reflects an area of law that is critical in providing the frameworks necessary to protect the dignity of human beings around the world. It offers students an opportunity to graduate and meet a growing demand for specialist lawyers that have human rights experience and knowledge – and a determination to tackle human rights violations.