Rwanda bill passed by UK parliament

Rwanda bill passed by UK parliament

This article covers ‘Daily Current Affairs’ and the topic details of ”Rwanda bill passed by UK parliament”. This topic is relevant in the “International Relations” section of the UPSC CSE exam.


Why in the News? 

The UK parliament has approved legislation enabling the government to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda for their asylum claims to be assessed by the East African nation. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has consistently highlighted the importance of curbing the arrival of small boats in the country, which often carry migrants seeking refuge from various forms of violence, persecution, and instability.


About Rwanda bill

  • A UK government policy, first proposed in 2022, has ignited debate. The plan aims to curb illegal immigration by deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing. This approach relies on designating Rwanda as a safe third country where asylum seekers wouldn’t face persecution.
  • However, the concept of a safe third country lacks universal acceptance, raising concerns about the policy’s fairness and effectiveness. Critics argue that even if Rwanda is deemed safe, the deportation process itself could be disruptive and potentially risky for asylum seekers.
  • Despite the controversy, the UK and Rwanda solidified their partnership in April 2022 through a Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP). Under this agreement, the UK would assess asylum claims and transport rejected applicants to Rwanda for processing and potential resettlement. Rwanda would then assume responsibility for providing shelter and adjudicating asylum applications. Those denied asylum in Rwanda would be returned to their home countries.
  • The UK government maintains this policy to deter illegal immigration and expedite the asylum process. However, human rights groups and the United Nations have voiced strong objections, questioning the long-term viability and ethical implications of this approach.


What is Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP)?

  • The Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) represents an innovative collaboration between the UK and Rwanda aimed at tackling the global issue of illegal and perilous migration. The core components of the MEDP encompass:
  • Facilitating the transfer of individuals who have entered the UK through illegal and perilous means to Rwanda, where their asylum applications will undergo processing.
  • Comprehensive screening and provision of legal assistance for all candidates considered for relocation. Upon arrival in Rwanda, they will receive secure and hygienic lodging, meals, healthcare, and other essential services, alongside access to translators and legal aid.
  • Disrupting the operations of organised crime syndicates engaged in human trafficking, thereby reducing the risk of fatalities associated with hazardous migration routes.
  • Contributing to regional economic advancement by investing in skills development, infrastructure, and initiatives benefiting both migrants and the local communities in Rwanda.
  • The UK has committed significant financial resources, including an initial £120 million, to cover the expenses of processing and integrating relocated individuals into Rwanda.
  • However, the MEDP had encountered legal obstacles, with the UK’s Supreme Court ruling in November 2023 that there were substantial grounds to believe that asylum seekers deported to Rwanda might face the risk of being sent back to their countries of origin. 

Criticism of the Rwanda Bill

  • International Law: Critics argue that the MEDP violates the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prohibits refoulement – the act of returning a refugee to a country where they face persecution. Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, a country with a chequered human rights record, raises concerns about their safety and well-being.
  • Human Rights Concerns: Human rights organisations have documented cases of arbitrary detention, torture, and suppression of dissent in Rwanda. Critics argue that relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda puts them at risk of further human rights violations.
  • Effectiveness:  The policy’s effectiveness in deterring illegal immigration is debatable. Some argue that it creates a bureaucratic nightmare and may simply displace the problem rather than solve it. Others point out that those most desperate to seek asylum may be undeterred by the prospect of relocation.
  • Ethical Concerns: The very idea of a wealthy nation outsourcing its asylum responsibilities to a developing country raises ethical concerns. Critics argue that the MEDP abdicates the UK’s responsibility to uphold its obligations under international law.
  • Cost and Logistics: The financial viability and logistical feasibility have been questioned. The cost of relocating, processing claims, and supporting asylum seekers in Rwanda is significant. Additionally, concerns exist about Rwanda’s capacity to handle a large influx of asylum seekers.


Countries with similar policies: 

  • Australia: Implemented a well-known “offshoring” policy in 2001, transferring asylum seekers arriving by boat to detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea for claim processing. This policy, criticised for its human rights implications and high cost, has seen substantial decline in boat arrivals but not overall asylum applications.
  • Israel: From 2013 to 2018, Israel offered Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers a choice between returning to their home countries, detention in Israel, or relocation to Rwanda with a chance to claim asylum there. However, reports suggest many weren’t allowed to claim asylum in Rwanda and continued their journeys to Europe, raising concerns about refoulement (forced return).
  • Denmark: Passed legislation in 2021 allowing them to send asylum seekers outside the EU for processing and signed a memorandum of understanding with Rwanda on cooperation regarding asylum and migration. While not a direct transfer agreement, it was seen as a potential precursor. Following a government change, Denmark seems to be exploring options within the EU rather than a bilateral deal with Rwanda.
  • European Union: The EU has pursued various approaches. The EU-Turkey deal aimed to limit asylum seekers reaching the bloc by returning those arriving in Greece to Turkey, with Turkey receiving aid in return. This deal saw a significant decrease in arrivals but faced criticism for its impact on asylum seekers returned to Turkey. The EU has also funded a voluntary program with UNHCR to relocate vulnerable refugees out of Libya to Rwanda for resettlement in third countries.
  • Italy: A plan (currently on hold) was recently announced to transfer migrants rescued at sea to Albania for claim processing by Italian authorities, with successful claimants receiving asylum in Italy. This differs from the UK’s plan as Albania wouldn’t be responsible for processing claims itself.

Download Yojna daily current affairs eng med 27th April 2024


Prelims practise question


Q1. Consider the following countries: 

  1. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  2. Tanzania
  3. Uganda
  4. Libya

How many of the above countries are Rwanda’s neighbours?

(a) Only one

(b) Only two

(c) Only three

(d) All four


Answer: C


Mains practise question


Q1. When assessing the impact of illegal migration on local communities, how should policymakers weigh concerns about strain on resources, cultural integration, and social cohesion against humanitarian considerations?

Q2. In what ways can sending back illegal migrants uphold or compromise basic human rights principles, and how should these factors influence decision-making?

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