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Peers say Government plans to bypass Lords over deportations to Rwanda

10 February 2023


A placard is raised by a protester outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in September, during a court case trying to stop asylum-seeker deportation flights to Rwanda 

A placard is raised by a protester outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in September, during a court case trying to stop asylum-seeker deportati...

MINISTERS have been accused of “usurping parliamentary power” by using a technical device to avoid scrutiny of the government’s plan for deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda being scrutinised by MPs and the House of Lords.

On Monday, the Lords asked for an explanation why the deal was agreed in a memorandum of understanding, which requires no parliamentary examination, rather than in a formal treaty, which does.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said that its use was “highly inappropriate”, and challenged the Government’s assertion that it was used for “technical or administrative matters”.

”We are talking about the transport of vulnerable people thousands of miles away, before and without considering their claim to asylum,” he said. “This is not technical or administrative; these are men, women, and children, to whom we owe a duty of care under international law. With such far-reaching implications, parliamentary scrutiny and debate should have been facilitated.”

He said that a proposed monitoring board — “which has yet to meet and which sets its own work plan” — was not a sufficient level of oversight.

Bishop Butler described as “intolerable” the suggestion that children could be among those deported, when the Government had originally said that the scheme was aimed mainly at single men. “Surely it would be unacceptable for any such extension not to be ratified by Parliament,” he said.

“If the Government do decide to include children in the scheme, which I implore them to simply disregard, they must commit to bringing it before this House. Children deserve the highest level of legal safeguards, in both the letter and spirit of the law.”

Responding, Lord Murray, a junior Home Office minister, said that the memorandum allowed details of the partnership to be flexible. It was a common mechanism for recording political commitments and arrangements between states. Members of the monitoring committee would be independent of both governments, and it would publish an annual report.

He rejected suggestions that Rwanda would abuse the rights of those who were deported. The deal had been tested in the High Court, which had found that arrangements with Rwanda were consistent with the refugee convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the statutory and other legal obligations on the Government (News, 23 December). Also, the domestic legal framework governing removals under the partnership was backed by legislation which has already faced parliamentary scrutiny, he said.

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