Good morning. Whoever it was that bequeathed the Conservative government its current dog’s dinner of a policy on immigration and asylum, be in no doubt: the people in charge now are going to do things differently! After setting out draconian new limits on legal migration on Monday, home secretary James Cleverly yesterday turned to irregular migration and the small boats crisis.
In Kigali, he entered into a fresh agreement with the Rwandan government aimed at resolving the supreme court’s ruling that deemed the current deportation plans in Rwanda illegal. The next step for the government is to implement the second phase of their plan to rectify the Rwanda scheme, which involves passing legislation to prevent future legal challenges. As Rishi Sunak finalizes the details, which may be made public tomorrow, he must choose between upsetting moderate members of his party or those supporting Suella Braverman on the conservative side.
The current schedule at Downing Street highlights immigration as the main topic for the week, yet it is uncertain if any changes will take place before the next election. In today’s newsletter, we discuss potential solutions for the Rwanda policy with input from Dr. Devyani Prabhat, a legal scholar and migration specialist from the University of Bristol. Here are the main points.
Five big stories
The top aid official of the UN has stated that the military campaign by Israel in southern Gaza has caused similar levels of destruction as seen in the north, resulting in catastrophic conditions and hindering humanitarian efforts. In addition, allegations of sexual violence during the 7 October attacks by Hamas were brought to the attention of the UN, with some speakers criticizing women’s rights activists and UN officials for not taking sufficient action against these crimes.
The rise in carbon pollution has caused the Earth’s temperature to dangerously increase, bringing humanity closer to several serious threats. Scientists have identified five crucial tipping points that are at risk of being exceeded, as outlined in the Global Tipping Points report. If global temperatures rise 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, three additional thresholds may be crossed by the 2030s.
The Guardian recently exposed a concerning nuclear leak at Sellafield, known as Europe’s most dangerous nuclear facility. The leak is coming from a large silo of radioactive waste and could potentially endanger the public. This issue has caused tension with countries such as the US, Norway, and Ireland due to safety concerns surrounding the deteriorating building.
The investigation into Covid | There has been a new development in the mystery surrounding Boris Johnson’s Covid-related WhatsApp messages. It has been revealed that approximately six months’ worth of messages cannot be accessed before the former prime minister’s testimony to the inquiry today. A spokesperson for Johnson attributed this to a “technical problem.”
The National Health Service (NHS) will experience a new round of strikes as many junior doctors in England have been unable to come to an agreement with the government regarding their salaries. These doctors will go on strike for a total of 72 hours starting at 7am on December 20, and for six consecutive days beginning on January 3.
In depth: The proposed treaty ‘will have a more elevated status in international law’ – but what does it really say?
The plan for Rwanda was initially revealed 20 months ago, during the terms of four different home secretaries and two prime ministers. Although the government believes it would discourage small boat crossings if put into action, it has never seemed like a feasible solution: the new facility in Rwanda can only accommodate 200 migrants, but almost 30,000 have already made the journey across the Channel this year. Nevertheless, it has become a central part of the government’s approach to addressing the issue, and there are no plans to back down before the next election.
In June, the highest court ruled that the policy was illegal, stating that there was a genuine possibility that individuals sent to Rwanda could face persecution if returned to their home countries – a practice known as refoulement. Cleverly’s visit to Rwanda and the anticipated legislation aim to overcome this issue and bring the proposals into fruition. However, there are valid reasons to doubt their chances of achieving success.
What is stated in the new Rwanda agreement?
Cleverly (pictured above) signed an updated agreement between Rwanda and the UK. This treaty includes a promise from Rwanda to only send failed asylum seekers to the UK, and also outlines additional measures to ensure this promise is kept. According to the Home Office, there will be increased responsibilities for an independent monitoring committee, as well as a new appeals body consisting of judges knowledgeable in asylum law.
Devyani Prabhat commented that the proposed treaty appears to be a complex legal structure aimed at fulfilling the non-refoulement obligation. She also noted that every aspect of the treaty is likely to face legal challenges. However, due to its formal status as a treaty, it will hold more weight in international law compared to a mere memorandum of understanding. The main concern is whether the mentioned safeguards will be sufficient to alter the verdict of the supreme court.
Prabhat stated that the supreme court has taken into consideration reports from external agencies, such as the UN Refugee Agency, regarding Rwanda’s current state. Therefore, a treaty alone cannot alter the situation. The UNHCR presented evidence of over 100 cases of potential forced return in their testimony to the court, which can be found in the court’s ruling. However, Prabhat mentioned that if legislation is introduced and passed in parliament to address these same concerns, it may be more challenging to contest in court.
What does the legislation state?
The specific details are still unknown, however, here are the main ideas that have been reported to be potentially under review.
Is the UK considering withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights? This is the most extreme possibility that has been talked about, favored by the conservative faction of the Conservative party and reportedly endorsed by immigration minister Robert Jenrick. The UK has been a member of the ECHR since its establishment in 1959, thus obligated to follow its rulings along with 45 other countries in the Council of Europe.
According to Prabhat, formally leaving the ECHR would be a lengthy process that would require parliamentary approval and six months’ notice. He also stated that it would be illegal to leave without following this process. However, the government could opt to disregard its jurisdiction over the Rwanda scheme, as suggested in Suella Braverman’s letter to Rishi Sunak after she was dismissed. This would involve including a clause stating that despite the court’s views, legal claims could still be made at the Strasbourg court, but the UK would still have the authority to do as it pleases.
Prabhat stated that it would be illegal. According to reports, up to ten ministers may resign if Sunak decides to go this route. The Times (£) stated that government lawyers have rejected this idea due to concerns about violating the civil service code. Recent reports indicate that moderate Tories have been reassured that Sunak will not pursue this course of action.
Is the UK government considering “disapplying” the Human Rights Act? This is the option believed to be Sunak’s most probable decision. According to Sir Jonathan Jones KC of the Institute for Government, there are limitations to how the Rwanda scheme will be affected by this legislation. The Human Rights Act does not give courts the power to invalidate primary legislation; it only declares it incompatible with the act and puts the responsibility on the government to address it.
Rewording not possible.
According to Prabhat, dismissing the action as insignificant is not feasible unless it is revoked. However, fundamental human rights are still protected under common law and international legal principles. As a result, asylum seekers can still utilize the Human Rights Act to contest their deportation to Rwanda, indicating that there may still be legal obstacles to overcome.
Can legislation officially designate Rwanda as a secure country? While it may seem like the simplest solution, this is not the usual practice as laws are not typically used to assert the government’s beliefs as truth. According to Prabhat, simply declaring it in parliament will not suffice, but it could potentially be included in a more comprehensive statute. If the bill includes specific guarantees that align with the treaty recently signed by Cleverly, it may hold more weight.
According to Jones, this strategy could potentially be successful under UK legislation. It is likely that the domestic courts would uphold this primary legislation if it is drafted with clarity and specificity, effectively preventing any legal challenges.
However, it is possible that the evidence presented to the supreme court regarding the risk of returning refugees to their home countries may influence the decision. The effectiveness of the new safeguards could also play a significant role. According to Prabhat, having an impartial international human rights agency involved in monitoring could be seen as a safeguard. However, the idea of British lawyers being stationed in Rwanda to oversee the system does not seem feasible. It raises questions about whether asylum-knowledgeable lawyers would be willing to relocate and who would provide the funding for it.
Is any of this effective?
The success of this plan is uncertain. Even if the government comes up with proposals that have the backing of MPs, there is a chance they will be rejected by the House of Lords. Additionally, there is not enough time before the next election to push through this legislation. Legal challenges are expected to arise, which may delay the effectiveness of this law until after the election. If the goal is to discourage people from crossing the English Channel in small boats, it appears that this plan may not be effective.
However, there are those who oppose the government and believe that their goal is not to achieve success, but rather to use this issue as a divisive tactic for the next Conservative manifesto. The effectiveness of this strategy, which relies on exposing the government’s consistent inability to implement an efficient policy, may be debatable. However, if this is indeed the government’s intention (which they deny), then it may have the potential to be effective.
According to Prabhat, it is common for people to blame outsiders, especially if they are portrayed as inferior and unworthy. This is particularly prevalent before elections. However, she disagrees with the belief that the UK is a weak target because of its laws protecting human rights. She believes that the real issue lies in the difficult circumstances faced by those escaping from war and persecution, not in our legal system.
What else we’ve been reading
No garment is more damaging to both the environment and your finances than the one that remains unworn. Lately, I have begun to wear clothing that has been neglected in my closet for years, so tips like washing less and getting alterations to make our wardrobes more eco-friendly are greatly appreciated. These are the words of Nazia Parveen, acting deputy editor of newsletters.
Imogen West-Knights wrote a long article about the events that occurred in the three days following the escape of seven chimpanzees from a zoo in Sweden. The story is heartbreaking and filled with shocking facts, but it is told with great skill. – Archie
At the young age of eight, Sosa Henkoma fled from the violence in his home. By the time he was 12, he was already in possession of his first firearm. He was exploited by drug cartels and endured 11 gunshot and stab wounds. He shares his story of how becoming a father, seeking therapy, and fortunate circumstances helped him overcome his past. This account is from Nazia Yousuf.
Anna Aslanyan, a translator, is full of professional sympathy for her colleague who was blamed for including the names of two royals accused of racism in a Dutch edition of Omid Scobie’s book. “Translation is like rubbish collection,” she writes. “People notice it only when something goes wrong.” Archie
National Geographic scientists warn that even a seemingly small increase in temperature could have significant impacts on life as we know it if the planet surpasses the 1.5C climate target.
In the Women’s Nations League, England’s Lionesses won 6-0 against Scotland but were unable to secure first place in their group. The Netherlands defeated Belgium 4-0, advancing ahead of England and qualifying for the semi-finals. As a result, Team GB will not be participating in the football competition at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Declan Rice scored a last-minute goal, leading Arsenal to a 4-3 victory in an exciting game against struggling Luton. After defeating the Premier League’s lowest-ranked team with five goals, Burnley faced a more challenging opponent in Wolves, ultimately losing 1-0.
The WBC featherweight boxing champion Amanda Serrano has given up her title due to the organization’s decision to not permit her to fight under the same rules as men’s boxing, which includes 12 three-minute rounds. Typically, women’s championship matches consist of a maximum of 10 rounds with each round lasting two minutes.
The front pages
The top story in The Guardian is about the dire situation in Gaza hindering aid efforts, according to a United Nations official. The i newspaper reports on the current investigation into Covid, with the headline questioning why there are so many deaths. The Financial Times announces that car manufacturers have been granted a three-year delay on electric tariffs between Britain and the EU.
The front page of The Times features an article titled “Sunak’s Compromise on Rwanda”, discussing the prime minister’s efforts to resuscitate the government’s proposal to transport migrants to Rwanda. The Telegraph covers the same topic with the headline “Ministers Risk Resignation over Law Allowing Rwanda Flights”.
The Mail reports on the announcement of fresh demonstrations by junior doctors with “The cruellest and most indefensible doctor’s strike yet”. The Mirror carries an investigation, with the headline “Christmas cosmetic surgery fear”.
Today in Focus
The Covid Inquiry: Boris Johnson’s Case
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Cartoon of the day | Martin Rowson
Just a little reminder of something positive to remind you that not everything in the world is negative.
Pangolins are believed to be the most heavily trafficked mammals in the world, particularly for Asian markets where their meat and scales are sold. The elusive creatures were previously thought to be extinct in the local area, with the last sighting in western Kenya being in 1971. When Fred Telekwa, a farmer, discovered a large pregnant ground pangolin that had been electrocuted by his fence, he was devastated. He has now joined the effort to protect this critically endangered species. Experts estimate that there are currently only 30 to 80 pangolins remaining in the country.
The Pangolin Project has been collaborating with landowners surrounding the Nyakweri forest in order to make space for these creatures. This has been particularly challenging for farmers like Telekwa, who have been clearing the forest for agricultural purposes and erecting electric fences to keep wild animals away. To gain support and understanding from the local community, the group has been engaging with residents to raise awareness about the issue and providing direct assistance to landowners in removing the lower strands of electric fences, which pose the greatest threat to the pangolins. “We are dedicated to safeguarding the remaining pangolins. We will do whatever it takes to create a protected habitat with a sustainable population,” says Beryl Makori, a project manager.
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