Aldah Mavoungou, Lawyer Specialised in International Business Law
Aldah Mavoungou, Lawyer

On 14th April 2022, the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, along with Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign affairs Mr Vincent Biruti announced a new migration partnership between Rwanda and the UK. This agreement will enable the UK government to send asylum seekers who entered illegally the UK since the beginning of the year to Rwanda.

This agreement has sparked many concerns and is still raising questions which could remain unanswered.
According to some official reports, over 28 000 people per year try a perilous journey to cross the English Channel in order to enter Britain. Many are exploited by criminal gangs and unfortunately some are not so lucky and end up losing their lives during the journey.

They have been nine months of complicated negotiations between the UK and Rwandan’s government on this sensitive matter. The aim is to send asylum seekers to Rwanda and have their applications processed there. The UK Primer Minister Boris Johnson has said that this is a compassionate way of dealing with the current situation and they will differentiate economic migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The scheme will apply to men and women, but not children and families. This is a world’s first, and the UK is fully aware that it’s really controversial.

How does Britain will show compassion on flying people over 4000 miles to Rwanda? Rwanda is known to be a country where Human Rights are not respected, 57% of people in Rwanda don’t have access to clean running water. In 2018 Police shot dead twelve refugees for protesting and Rwanda is still linked to conflicts in the region with surrounding countries.
Will it be safe to let people travel this far and be subject to uncertainty, persecution, or fear of death?
This is undoubtedly a diabolic situation, because the distinction between economic migrants, asylum seekers and refugees will be made in Rwanda, not in the UK.
Will it be reasonable to let people fly 4000 miles before having their applications processed? Knowing that Rwanda does not have the commodities required and is far to be the right and safest place for people fleeing their countries for a better life. There has been a £120 million upfront partnership payment made by the UK to Rwanda, and further payments will follow as they process cases. Furthermore, still according to the UK government they are spending 5 million a day trying to accommodate asylum seekers and individuals who are crossing the Channel in hotels, and by signing this deal, they hope to save money in coming years and tackle this issue of gangs and peoples’ smugglers. This one-way ticket deal to Rwanda will not be fair and is against Human Rights, the implementation which is due to take place sometimes this year will be more than realistic.

Many factors need to be considered and this deal will be more beneficial to Rwanda as they will boost their economy. Rwanda is far from being an example of democracy. We must recognise efforts made by their government since the 1994 genocide’s crisis. This UK deal is “Cruel and immoral” as stated by many critics. This migration and economic deal is highly controversial and is a change to the UK Immigration Policy. It has been criticised by many charities worldwide and by opposition parties in the UK. Questions needs to be answered on the practicability, the Humanity and the Cost of this deal in the coming years. Rwanda is still recovering from genocide. The UK criticised Rwanda last year for their Human Rights records and surprisingly this year they are signing a deal with them to relocate traumatised and vulnerable asylum seekers.
Israel scrapped a similar deal with Rwanda in 2018 after it emerged that asylum seekers ended up in hands of peoples’ traffickers, they were subject to rape, torture, enslavement, and murderers. Most of these asylum seekers headed up north to Europe on perilous journey through the Mediterranean Sea.
No evidence could suggest that this April 2022 deal between Rwanda and the UK will stop traffickers. Instead, it will do more harm to refugees and asylum seekers. Maybe this deal will be scraped before it even begins.
This UK deal to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda in an Australian-style-model has been inspired by the Australian Policy widely criticised in the World. They will be very little accountability to what will happen to the Refugees once they arrive in Rwanda, just as it’s happening in Australia where refugees are in lack of education, adequate medical treatment and care. Australian government signed a similar deal and this end up costing them billions and it was also controversial.
The UK should be bound by International Laws obligations on how to treat asylum seekers and refugees. If people have a real fear of persecution in their home countries, they should be given a safer and better place. Rwanda is far to be that safe place.
The UK asylum system is based on the commitment it has as a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and 1967 Protocol, and European Convention on Human Rights.
This will be a breach of Article 31 of the 1951 Convention state that “1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence. 2. The Contracting States shall not apply to the movements of such refugees restrictions other than those which are necessary and such restrictions shall only be applied until their status in the country is regularized or they obtain admission into another country.
The Contracting States shall allow such refugees a reasonable period and all the necessary facilities to obtain admission into another country”.
In view of the above, it is clear that this new asylum deal will raise serious question on Article 31(1) application. Once refugees and asylum seekers are in the UK, which is a safe country, they will be flown 4000 miles away to an unsafe country. This is on its own a BREACH. These issues are central to the UK Government’s recent New Plan for Immigration.
The New Nationality and Border Act 2022 bill last updated on 4th May 2022 on the UK Parliament website has not passed all stages yet, it’s still having to pass before the House of Lords and Final Stages before becoming a law.

The UNHCR also has an important part to play in the matter. Member of Parliament should play their part on fairness of this new asylum proposal. UNHCR’s view was that several of the Government proposals are based on a “misconstruction” of Article 31(1).
Furthermore, Section 2 of the UK Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 provides that “Nothing in the Immigration Rules…shall lay down any practice which would be contrary to the Convention”.
Subsequently, the UK has also endorsed the non-binding 2018 UN Global Compact on Refugees (GBC) and the 2018 UN Global Compact for Orderly and Regulator Migration(GMC).
Another question arising will be to know if Proceedings before National Courts could be open to those forced to be flown to Rwanda, knowing that their application will only be processed there and outcomes will be unlikely to be fair for most of them, knowing that currently successful rate of asylum applications are considerably low.
In sum, it’s clear that this UK/RWANDA deal if implemented will be subject to many issues, irregularities, and unlawful proceedings, depriving vulnerable people from their Rights according to International Laws and Regulations. The UK Legal System is one of the fairest in the world. Let’s hope that this will be reviewed and scrapped.

By Aldah Mavoungou, Lawyer Specialised in International Business Law
London: 27/05/2022