The Council of Europe urges the UK to refrain from handling asylum requests in Rwanda.

The Council of Europe urges the UK to refrain from handling asylum requests in Rwanda.

The primary watchdog against torture in Europe has urged the government to handle asylum requests within the UK instead of deporting individuals to Rwanda, citing concerns over potential human rights violations.

A report released on Thursday by the Council of Europe’s committee for preventing torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment highlights numerous concerns following an 11-day trip to the UK in March and April of last year.

The report cautions about the UK’s Illegal Migration Act, which permits asylum requests to be processed in Rwanda instead of the UK. It also raises concerns about the partnership between the UK and Rwanda for migration and economic development, warning that vulnerable individuals may face torture or inhumane and degrading treatment if they are sent to Rwanda.

The committee’s impromptu visit aimed to assess the conditions of immigration detention in the UK, coinciding with the Home Office’s plan to greatly increase the number of asylum seekers held before their forced removals to Rwanda.

The current amount of available detention spaces is 2,245 and the government intends to increase this number by an additional 1,000.

The European Court of Human Rights uses the committee’s conclusions to make decisions on applicable cases. In a recent case involving a planned deportation flight to Rwanda on June 14, 2022, the ECHR stepped in and stopped the flight, potentially setting a precedent for future considerations of the Rwandan policy by the court.

The report expresses worry over the UK’s policy of detaining immigrants indefinitely and keeping individuals with criminal records in prisons instead of transferring them to detention centers after their sentences are served.

The committee’s visit revealed that the Illegal Migration Act, which was a bill at the time, aims to simplify the process of removing individuals who arrive without a valid visa. This is achieved by eliminating several important safeguards.

The article advises the UK government to avoid using offensive language when discussing foreign individuals who have arrived in the UK after difficult journeys.

The report expresses worries regarding individuals who are being held in detention, particularly those who have experienced torture or are at risk of taking their own lives. These vulnerabilities are brought to light through a procedure called rule 35 in immigration detention. However, once detainees are granted bail, their rule 35 categorization is no longer included in official data, even if they continue to be detained for several months. As a result, the accuracy of official statistics is called into question and individuals who are deemed unsuitable for detention are still being held.

The committee expressed worries about the handling of certain prisoners, specifically a man who had initially resisted but later complied. The individual was surrounded by four guards in full body armor and was placed in handcuffs.

The legislation of the Illegal Migration Act permits the detention of children for potential deportation to Rwanda, a contentious measure that was previously abolished in the UK but has now been reinstated. In light of the committee’s concerns about this, officials from the UK government have acknowledged that children may be detained and have stated that efforts will be made to meet their needs while in custody, if feasible.

The UK government disagrees with many aspects of the report and believes it does not accurately portray the significant efforts they make to protect and support those under their care.

Officials stated that they were content with the proposal to handle asylum requests in Rwanda instead of the UK, in light of the delegation’s request. They believed that the plan complied with both international refugee and human rights laws, and noted that the courts had deemed the concept of relocating individuals to a secure third country as permissible.

In November 2023, the UK’s highest court declared that the Rwanda program was illegal and determined that Rwanda was not a secure destination for asylum seekers to be sent to.