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Editorial The Tories, human rights and Rwanda

DISREGARDING the Supreme Court ruling, which rendered unlawful the government’s plan to ship to Rwanda people claiming asylum, Rishi Sunak has doubled down on the original scheme.

Suella Braverman’s replacement announced that the government has a cunning plan to change its deal with Rwanda into a treaty, with extra clauses to prevent asylum-seekers from being returned to the countries they originally fled, in the expectation that this might negate the judgement.

This rather misses the point, delivered with measured tones but devastating effect, that the Supreme Court ruling turned on the deeply flawed human rights standing of Rwanda which makes refoulement — returning a refugee from the place they fled — a possible consequence of a decision by Rwandan authorities.

The Supreme Court clearly laid out that the prohibition of refoulement is enshrined in the Refugee Convention 1951, is given effect by the United Nations Convention against Torture 1984 and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966.

It is outside the remit of the Supreme Court to pronounce on the broader context of the refugee flows to Britain, but it is noticeable that the court referred to Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. All states where Britain’s imperialist foreign and military policy — joined with that of the United States and France — has driven millions to seek asylum.

Only a small proportion of this human tide arrives at our shores. But when a boat lands its human cargo on Dover beach it is but a stage in a journey that started in countries that have endured decades of war or in places where global warming is rendering existing ways of living impossible.

The Subsaharan and equatorial African people joining migrant flows to Europe have had no part in creating the climatic conditions which drive them to seek sanctuary in the developed capitalist world.

It was Boris Johnson who laid out the scheme that, anyone entering Britain “illegally” might be relocated to Rwanda.

His idea was that Britain’s legal responsibilities for asylum-seekers — the notion that they might have entered “illegally” is contested — would end once they were deported to Rwanda.

Applying for asylum in Britain was ruled out while they were told to apply for asylum in Rwanda, have their claims processed through Rwanda’s asylum system and, if successful, would be stuck in Rwanda, with no option to return to Britain.

While the moral case for Britain to take responsibility for the refugees cast on our shore by 21st-century imperialism is at the core of the debate about immigration, the legal case resides in our treaty obligations. But the self-proclaimed party of “law and order” is very selective about the laws it deems important to obey, while the Tory government’s reputation for incompetence has grown with this reversal of its policy.

Having made the issue of immigration — and especially the cross-Channel boats — a centrepiece of government messaging, it now has to deal with clear perception by most people, including Tory voters mobilised by this issue, that the policy is dead.

Because, in general, Westminster Labour and the party leadership don’t differ very much from the government’s foreign policy — and fears to draw attention to the great void where an ethical foreign policy might enhance Labour’s moral appeal. Yvette Cooper, the opposition’s home affairs policy speaker, cannot put forward a credible alternative which deals with the problem at source.

In contrast to Labour’s self-imposed stasis, the Law Society has called for quicker processing of claims so that people granted asylum can go on to contribute fully to British society without being dependent on the state.

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