Social Justice

Human rights and rule of law under threat in UK after Rwanda bill vote, charities warn

Not a single Tory MP voted against the controversial plan to revive the Rwanda scheme

Rwanda deportation flights protest

Protesters gather outside Rwanda House, London: Greg Barradale / The Big Issue

Human rights and the rule of law are under threat in the UK, charities have warned, after parliament voted in favour of the government’s new Rwanda bill.

After a day of political intrigue, not a single Tory MP voted against the bill, which declares Rwanda is a safe country and forces courts to accept this – overruling the Supreme Court’s judgement last month that the east African nation is unsafe.

Under the bill, asylum seekers due to be sent to Rwanda will be unable to appeal on the grounds they would be unsafe, or be sent back to an unsafe country. 

It has led to warnings from parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) that the bill gives public authorities free reign to breach human rights, and “would expose individuals to a risk of their fundamental rights not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment being violated”. 

Pushing ahead with the bill represents a threat to everybody’s human rights, warned Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive.

“This bill is a sad assault on the rule of law and the protection of human rights in this country,” said Deshmukh. 

“Stripping people of their rights and shipping them off to Rwanda when they’re seeking asylum in the UK is a clear dereliction of this country’s responsibilities toward some of the world’s most desperate people. It is an attack on the basic principle that human rights are universal.”

Introduced to revive the government’s Rwanda plan after the Supreme Court ruled it unlawful, the bill is inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, according to the JCHR, the cross-party group of MPs and peers which scrutinises every government bill for its compatibility with human rights.

Chair Harriet Harman also questioned why the government needed to force the new legislation through, writing: “It is unclear why the bill is considered necessary other than in order to speed up the operationalisation of the policy by bypassing review in the courts.”

Tuesday’s vote meant the bill passed its second reading, but will need to pass further stages in parliament and the Lords to become reality.

Lawmakers should think carefully about their responsibilities as the bill progresses, said Fiona Rutherford, chief executive of JUSTICE.

“This bill – passed by less than half of our MPs – triggers a constitutional crisis by trying to decree away reality as set out in the unanimous finding by our most senior court,” Rutherford said.

“It fundamentally threatens the independence of our judiciary – an independence which underpins our very democracy.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Sunak's call to end 'sick note culture' and reform benefits is 'demonising' disabled and sick people
Rishi Sunak during his speech on the UK's 'sick note culture'
Benefits

Sunak's call to end 'sick note culture' and reform benefits is 'demonising' disabled and sick people

'It's a choice between dinner and devices': Millions of children held back by digital poverty
digital inequality/ child with device
Exclusive

'It's a choice between dinner and devices': Millions of children held back by digital poverty

My daughter has been trapped in hospital for years with a learning disability – and she wants out
learning disability hospital/ sarah
Disabilities

My daughter has been trapped in hospital for years with a learning disability – and she wants out

Millions missing out on £23billion in unclaimed DWP benefits – an average of £2,700 per person
unclaimed benefits/ dwp
Benefits

Millions missing out on £23billion in unclaimed DWP benefits – an average of £2,700 per person

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know