Senior Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has written the British Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson, asking him to stop dispatching asylum seekers and refugees to Africa.
Falana urged the prime minister to provide the leadership necessary for the United Kingdom’s government to immediately halt the “patently unlawful and discriminatory plan” and comply with the country’s international legal obligations.
He recalled that Johnson had announced on 14 April 2022 that under the UK and Rwanda’s new migration and economic development partnership, anyone entering the UK illegally, as well as those who have arrived illegally since January 1, will be relocated to Rwanda.
He said that the UK government had also simultaneously published a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concluded with the government of Rwanda for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement.
The MoU, he said, foresees the transfer of asylum seekers whose claims are not being considered by the United Kingdom, to Rwanda, which will process their claims and settle or remove (as appropriate) individuals after their claim is decided.
But Falana, a former President of the West Africa Bar Association (WABA), said it was concerning that the Home Office is offering to fly asylum seekers and refugees back to the conflict zones they escaped from in the first instance if they do not wish to be sent to Rwanda.
“According to my information, asylum seekers and refugees are being sent to Rwanda because of their method of reaching the UK — generally crossing the Channel to enter the UK.
“The largest nationality groups affected seem to be Afghans, Iranians and Sudanese. Sudanese refugees reportedly represent more than a third of those being sent to Rwanda.
“This patently racist, unlawful and discriminatory plan is inconsistent and incompatible with the UK’s international human rights obligations, and commitments to refugees.
” The UK authorities cannot and should not escape their international legal obligations to asylum seekers and refugees and push to shift such obligations to another country,” he maintained.
Specifically, Falana stated that the MoU and the plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda blatantly violate the UK’s legal obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
In addition, he stated that it was also a breach of the Convention against Torture; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
He insisted that it was unlawful and discriminatory for the UK government to penalise asylum seekers and refugees who belong to a group of nationalities simply because of their alleged irregular entry into the UK.
The MoU and plan to send asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, he pointed out, may also violate the internationally recognised right to ‘non-refoulement’, and lead to violations of other human rights.
He declared that the MoU cannot be justified under international law as both UK and Rwanda are states parties to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
Therefore, the senior lawyer added that sending asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda, a country with appalling human rights record will amount to double jeopardy for asylum seekers and refugees.
He noted that this will also deny them their internationally recognised human rights in the UK while also exposing them to the risks of grave human rights violations in Rwanda.