Rishi Sunak is contemplating the idea of using a human rights law to push forward his proposal of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, in response to mounting pressure from conservative MPs.
The government has considered the option of not applying the Human Rights Act to a bill during an emergency situation to reduce legal challenges against the prime minister’s immigration policy. However, ministers are aware that this could result in rebellions from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, potentially leading to the rejection of the proposal.
A source from the Conservative party stated: “This action would cause division within the party. Many cabinet ministers and those who support a unified nation would not support it – even the prime minister would struggle to pass it through the Commons. Furthermore, this would not appease the extreme right-wing members either.”
The government’s quandary has emerged as a former supreme court judge said the proposals to send people seeking asylum to the east African country with no possibility of a return to the UK were “probably dead”.
The Conservative right is putting immense pressure on the prime minister to implement the program as promised in his efforts to “halt the boats” during the refugee crisis in the Channel. MPs with right-leaning views are insisting on a flight to Kigali taking off before the upcoming general election, which is anticipated to occur by the end of 2024.
The UK’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that Sunak’s main policy is invalid due to the potential of “refoulement,” which means refugees could be returned to their home country by the Rwandan government.
The act of refoulement is not allowed according to international laws. These laws include the European convention on human rights (ECHR), the UN refugee convention, and the UN convention against torture. These laws have been incorporated into domestic law through the Human Rights Act.
Sources stated that discussions regarding the potential blocking of the Human Rights Act had been occurring in Downing Street following the ruling.
Following the court decision, Sunak announced plans to enhance the agreement with the government of Rwanda by turning it into a treaty. He also pledged to introduce an emergency bill in the coming weeks in order to prevent any further court challenges. Government officials are considering the possibility of mandating members of parliament to convene on Fridays and rearranging the parliamentary schedule to expedite the passing of the new bill.
According to sources within the party, they acknowledge that many Conservative MPs may join forces with Labour to prevent any potential alterations. Any attempt to restrict human rights laws may also be met with opposition in the House of Lords due to growing worries that it would violate the UK’s commitment to international law under the ECHR.
The far-right New Conservatives group insisted that Sunak’s proposed law “should not apply the Human Rights Act,” and the former Secretary of State for the Home Department, Suella Braverman, who was fired by Sunak last week, stated that the bill should eliminate all options for legal opposition.
When the Guardian approached them, No 10 refused to provide a statement.
Lord Sumption, a former judge in the supreme court, stated that the Rwanda plan is most likely no longer in effect. However, he believes that it would be prudent to wait and see the specifics of the new legislation or treaty before passing judgment. He also predicted that judges in Strasbourg would share a similar opinion on the legality of the scheme as those in the UK supreme court.
In an interview with Sky News, he stated that the government has expressed their lack of intention to withdraw from the ECHR. However, while they may choose to disregard interim orders from Strasbourg, they are likely to comply with final orders. The Strasbourg court will conduct their own investigation and likely reach a conclusion similar to that of the supreme court.
He expressed doubt about the proposed idea of sending British government workers to the east African nation. He stated that the biggest issue with this plan is that it puts the responsibility of determining refugee status in the hands of Rwanda.
On Sunday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt expressed support for the government’s emergency legislation and clarified that the government does not intend to withdraw from the ECHR, despite pressure from the conservative wing of the Conservative party.
“I believe that when you interview me next year, we will have a conversation about the success of our plan. I will explain that it was not an easy task, but we persevered and fulfilled our promise,” he stated to BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.
The government officials are facing demands to handle the requests for asylum from a large number of individuals who entered the UK after the implementation of the illegal migration act in July.
According to immigration experts, government officials may be violating the UN refugee convention by detaining asylum seekers for an indefinite amount of time, including in detention centers. These individuals have no chance of being sent to a different safe country or being granted access to the UK’s asylum system under the current law.
According to Enver Solomon, the leader of the Refugee Council, the Illegal Migration Act is unjust, impractical, and costly. It is causing significant distress and anxiety for the individuals we assist, leading to a rise in severe mental health issues for those who are already traumatized, including men, women, and children. There are concerns about the legality of keeping people in this situation for an indefinite period of time, and the government should promptly take action by granting them all a fair chance to be heard in the asylum process and treating them with empathy and respect.