Rwanda: Cabinet Endorses Bill Ratifying Rwanda-UK Migration Treaty

The Cabinet meeting on January 25, approved a bill ratifying a migration agreement between Rwanda and the UK, which seeks to protect refugees and migrants, according to a statement issued by the Office of Prime Minister.

The bill is dubbed “Draft law approving the ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Rwanda and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the Provision of an Asylum Partnership to Strengthen Shared International Commitments on the Protection of Refugees and Migrants, signed in Kigali on December 5, 2023.”

The treaty was signed by Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Vincent Biruta, and his counterpart, the United Kingdom Home Secretary, James Cleverly, in line with strengthening Rwanda and UK’s Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP), but also directly addresses the concerns of the Supreme Court about the partnership.

It seeks to ensure that illegal migrants can be lawfully relocated to Rwanda, officials said.

The new treaty came nearly a month after the UK’s Supreme Court ruled out the initial scheme of the partnership (MEDP), citing several challenges, but Cleverly told media in Kigali that the concerns were addressed in the new binding treaty.

On November 15, 2023, the Supreme Court concluded that the government’s policy of sending to Rwanda under the UK-Rwanda treaty – Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) – individuals who arrive in the UK without authorisation, was unlawful.

It held that this was because it found that there were substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would be at real risk of ‘refoulement’ (that is, being returned to a country where they might face persecution, inhuman or degrading treatment or death).

The new treaty, officials said, responds directly to the conclusions of the Supreme Court and presents a new long-term solution.

This, among other provisions, Cleverly pointed out, guarantees that any people sent to Rwanda to claim asylum are not at risk of being sent to a third country where they could face harm.

He indicated that the new treaty is binding in international law and ensures that people relocated to Rwanda under the partnership are not at risk of being returned to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened – an act known as refoulement.

Rwanda, he observed, is a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees, adding that the country has a strong history of protecting those who need it, hosting over 135,000 asylum seekers who have found sanctuary there.

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