UK’s Rwanda Plan Risks ‘Serious Harm’ to Refugees, Warns UN Agency

(Bloomberg) -- The UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda will expose refugees to “serious harm” and the policy is incompatible with the UK’s international obligations, the United Nations’ refugee agency told a UK court.

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The UK’s Court of Appeal on Monday began a four-day hearing on challenges to the policy to fly asylum seekers arriving in Britain some 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers) to the east African nation.

“Removal to Rwanda pursuant to the UK-Rwanda Arrangement will expose asylum-seekers to a real risk of breaches of the Refugee Convention,” Angus McCullough, a lawyer for the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees said in written arguments submitted to the court.

The UNHCR played no part in the 2022 agreement between the UK and Rwanda, ignored the monitoring arrangements provided in the agreement, the financial incentives given to Rwanda and the political capital invested in the plan, the UK’s lawyer David Pannick responded in court filings.

Rwanda is a safe country and the UK government is confident that the Rwandan authorities will comply with the assurances, Pannick said.

The hearing comes as Rishi Sunak’s government makes stopping the boats of migrants crossing the English channel one of its top priorities and a key agenda before elections set to be held no later than early 2025. A lower court had earlier ruled the UK policy as lawful, which asylum seekers and nonprofit organizations subsequently challenged.

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