UK immigration minister quits over Rwanda bill: Home secretary

AFP , AP , Wednesday 6 Dec 2023

Britain's immigration minister quit on Wednesday after the government published legislation regarding its controversial treaty with Rwanda to send migrants to the East African country.

FILE- Britain s Minister of State for Immigration Robert Jenrick leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on December 5, 2023.AFP


Interior minister James Cleverly told lawmakers that Robert Jenrick had resigned, in a move that piles pressure on embattled Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The U.K. government triggered criticism from opponents and division inside the governing Conservatives on Wednesday with a bill that will let it ignore a part of the country's human rights law in order to send asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

The legislation is part of government plans to overcome a block by the U.K. Supreme Court on its Rwanda policy. The court ruled last month that the plan was illegal because Rwanda isn't a safe country for refugees.

Britain and Rwanda have since signed a treaty pledging to strengthen protection for migrants. The U.K. government says that will allow it to pass a law declaring Rwanda a safe destination.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the Safety of Rwanda Bill “will make absolutely clear in U.K. law that Rwanda is a safe country.” He urged lawmakers in Parliament to pass the legislation, even though it may violate international human rights rules.

The government says the law will allow it to “disapply" sections of U.K. human rights law when it comes to Rwanda-related asylum claims.

On the first page of the bill, Cleverly states that he can’t guarantee that it's compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights — but that lawmakers should approve it anyway.

The bill now faces a battle in Parliament. It doesn't go far enough for some lawmakers on the governing Conservative Party’s authoritarian wing, who want the U.K. to go further and leave the European rights convention completely. That would put Britain among a very few European nonmembers including Belarus and Russia, which was expelled after Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The bill also will likely face resistance from centrist Conservative lawmakers who oppose Britain breaching its human rights obligations.

And Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said that his country would scrap the deal unless Britain stuck to international law.

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