With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the government’s plans to stop the boats and tackle the vile trade in people smuggling across the Channel.
Three weeks ago, the Supreme Court handed down their judgment on this government’s Migration and Economic Development Agreement with Rwanda.
In that judgment, their Lordships upheld the view of the High Court and the Court of Appeal that it is lawful to relocate illegal migrants, who have no right to be here, to another safe country for asylum processing and resettlement.
But the Court upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal, meaning that the government cannot yet lawfully remove people to Rwanda. This was due to the Court’s concerns that relocated individuals might be “refouled” – i.e. removed to a country where they could face persecution or ill-treatment. We did not agree with that assessment, but of course we respect the judgement of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court also acknowledged that their concerns were not immutable, were not an aspersion on Rwanda’s intentions, and that changes may be delivered in the future which could address their concerns.
Today I can inform the House that those concerns have been conclusively answered and those changes made, as a result of intensive diplomacy by the Prime Minister, by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, by the Attorney General’s Office and of course by the Home Office.
We have created a situation which addresses these concerns.
Our Rule of Law Partnership with Rwanda sets out in a legally binding international treaty the obligations on both the UK and Rwanda within international law, and sets out to this House and to the Courts why Rwanda is and will remain conclusively a safe country for the purposes of asylum and resettlement.
This is a partnership to which we and Rwanda are both completely committed. Rwanda is a safe and prosperous country and it is a vital partner for the UK. Our treaty puts beyond legal doubt the safety of Rwanda and ends the endless merry-go-round of legal challenges that have frustrated thus far this policy and second-guessed the will of Parliament.
I want to put on record my gratitude to President Kagame, Foreign Minister Biruta, and the Rwandan government for working with us at pace to do what to takes to get this deal up and running, with flights taking off as soon as possible.
Rwanda will introduce a strengthened end-to-end asylum system, which will include a new, specialist asylum appeals tribunal to consider individual appeals against any refused claims.
It will have one Rwandan and one other Commonwealth co-president and be made up of judges from a mix of nations, selected by those co-presidents.
We have been working with Rwanda to build capacity and to make clear that those relocated to Rwanda will not be sent to another third country.
The treaty is binding in international law. It also enhances the role of the independent Monitoring Committee, which will ensure adherence to obligations under the treaty and have the power to set its own priority areas for monitoring.
It will be given unfettered access to complete assessments and reports and monitor the entire relocation process, including initial screening, to relocation and settlement in Rwanda.
And it will develop a system to enable relocated individuals and legal representatives to lodge confidential complaints directly with the Committee.
But given the Supreme Court’s judgment, we cannot be confident that courts will respect a new treaty on its own. So today the government has published emergency legislation to make unambiguously clear that Rwanda is a safe country and to prevent the courts from second guessing Parliament’s will.
We will introduce legislation tomorrow, in the form of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, to give effect to the judgement of Parliament that Rwanda is a safe country, notwithstanding UK law or any interpretation of international law.
For the purposes of the bill, a safe country is defined as one to which people may be removed from the UK in compliance with all of the United Kingdom’s obligations under international law that are relevant to the treatment in that country of people who are removed there.
It means that
- someone removed to that country will not be removed or sent to another country in contravention of any international law; and
- anyone who is seeking asylum or who has had asylum determination will have their claim determined and be treated in accordance with that country’s obligations under international law.
Anyone removed to Rwanda under the provisions of the treaty will not be removed from Rwanda except to the United Kingdom in a very small number of limited and extreme circumstances.
And should the UK request the return of any relocated person, Rwanda will make them available.
Decision-makers – which both the Home Secretary and immigration officers and the courts – must all treat Rwanda as a safe country.
And they must do so notwithstanding all relevant UK law or any interpretation of international law, including
- the Human Rights Convention;
- the Refugee Convention;
- the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights of 1966;
- the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984;
- the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings done at Warsaw on 16 May 2005;
- customary international law; and
- any other international law, or convention or rule of international law, whatsoever, including any order, judgment, decision, or measure of the European Court of Human Rights.
Where the European Court of Human Rights indicates an interim measure relating to the intended removal of someone to Rwanda under, or purportedly under, a provision of the Immigration Acts…
…a Minister of the Crown alone – and not a court or tribunal – will decide whether the United Kingdom will comply with those interim measures.
And to further prevent individual claims to prevent removal, the bill disapplies the relevant provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998, including sections 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9.
It is a bill which is lawful, it is fair, and it is necessary.
Because people will only stop coming here illegally when they know that they cannot stay, and they will be detained and quickly removed to a safe third country.
Because Mr Deputy Speaker, it is only by breaking the cycle and delivering a deterrent that we will remove the incentive to come and stop the boats.
This legislation builds on the Illegal Migration Act that this House passed this summer and complements the basket of other measures that the UK government is employing to end illegal immigration.
The largest ever small boats deal with France, for example, tackling the supply of boats and parts, the arrest and conviction of people-smugglers, and illegal working raids have all helped to drive down small boat arrivals. Drive them down by more than a third this year even as numbers are rising elsewhere in Europe.
Parliament and the public alike support the Rwanda plan. Other countries have since copied our plans with Rwanda. And we know from interviews that the prospect of being relocated out of the UK has already had a deterrent effect. This will be considerably magnified when we get flights off to Rwanda.
The treaty and new bill will make that a reality.
I commend this statement to the House.