The UK has signed an expansion of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda.
The partnership, signed on Saturday night by British Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta, means the UK will be able to relocate anyone who arrives in the country illegally to Rwanda.
Activists have previously opposed the migration arrangement, saying the UK government was shirking its international responsibility under the Refugee Convention to protect people in need of asylum
In a legal analysis published in June 2022, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) concluded that the UK-Rwanda arrangement “does not meet the requirements necessary to be considered a lawful and / or appropriate bilateral transfer arrangement.”
However, Braverman hailed the strengthening of the partnership with Rwanda as both countries vow to step up efforts in dealing with global migration challenges.
Under the Migration and Economic Development Partnership, “people who make dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK, such as by small boat, will be relocated to Rwanda, where they will be supported to rebuild their lives.”
Braverman traveled to Kigali for official engagements with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Biruta, this weekend (March 18 and 19).
According to a joint statement issued on Sunday morning, Braverman and Dr Biruta reiterated their desire to deliver the partnership, amid a global migration crisis that has seen 100 million people displaced and people smugglers cashing in on human misery.
They outlined the global leaders’ commitment to “working on bold and innovative migration policies to redress the balance between legal and uncontrolled migration.”
The government of Rwanda reiterated the country’s readiness to “receive thousands of individuals, process their claims and house them before they are moved to longer-term accommodation, with necessary support services including health and education provisions.”
The UK and Rwanda agreed a Migration and Economic Development Partnership in April 2022. It includes a five-year ‘asylum partnership arrangement’, allowing the UK to send some people to Rwanda who would otherwise claim asylum in the UK.
Rwanda considers them for permission to stay or return to their country of origin. They will not be eligible to return to the UK.
In return, the UK has provided £120 million in development funding to Rwanda. The UK will also pay for the processing and integration costs for each relocated person.
Ministers expect these will be similar to asylum processing costs in the UK (around £12,000 per person).
Officials said the updated partnership will have the added benefit of preparing the UK to deliver on the measures proposed in the Illegal Migration Bill, as it will mean that anyone who comes to the UK illegally – who cannot be returned to their home country – will be in scope to be relocated to Rwanda.
The new bill, which was introduced to UK Parliament last week, will see people who come to the UK illegally face detention and be returned to their home country, or a safe third country such as Rwanda.
The scheme is uncapped and the government of Rwanda have confirmed they are able to take thousands of people eligible for relocation.
Nobody has been removed under the UK-Rwanda asylum partnership since the policy was announced. The first planned flight on 14 June 2022 was halted following a European Court of Human Rights injunction, of which the Government was critical.
On 19 December 2022, the High Court found that the Rwanda arrangements are lawful overall.
Some of the individual claimants did not have their cases considered properly by the Home Office, so those removal decisions were set aside and sent back for a fresh decision.
Officials speak out
“We cannot continue to see people risking their lives crossing the Channel, which is why I am pleased to strengthen our agreement even further with the government of Rwanda so we can address the global migration crisis head on,” said Braverman.
“The Migration and Economic Development Partnership is key to breaking the business model of people smugglers while ensuring those who genuinely need protection can be helped to rebuild their lives,” she added.
‘Rwanda is a progressive, rapidly growing economy at the forefront of innovation – I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing first-hand the rich opportunities this country can provide to relocated people through our partnership.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta said, “ if we are to successfully tackle the global migration crisis, we need innovative, urgent action. This Partnership addresses the opportunity gap at the heart of the migration crisis, by investing in Rwanda’s capability to continue offering migrants the opportunity to build new lives in a safe, secure place, through accommodation, education, and vocational training.”
“For these reasons, we are pleased to once again renew our commitment to our ground-breaking Partnership with the UK, which shares our determination to solve this crisis.”
On the visit, the Home Secretary will spend time meeting refugees, who have been supported by the Government of Rwanda to rebuild their lives. She will also see new housing developments, which will be used to relocate people.
She also visited new modern, long-term accommodation that will support those who are relocated to settle in Rwanda.
The Home Secretary also met with investment start-ups and entrepreneurs to discuss the range of business and employment opportunities available to people in Rwanda.
The partnership with Rwanda is just one strand of the work the government is doing to tackle illegal migration.
Last week the Prime Minister agreed a package with France which will see a new detention centre established in France as well as the deployment of more French personnel and enhanced technology to patrol beaches.