What is the Rwanda Policy? U.K.’s Plan for Asylum Seekers Explained

After a prolonged battle in the courts and in Parliament, Britain’s Conservative government secured passage of legislation on Monday that is intended to allow the country to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The legislation is intended to override a Supreme Court ruling last year that deemed the plan to send asylum seekers to the African nation unlawful. The judges ruled that Rwanda was not a safe country in which refugees could resettle or have their asylum cases heard.

The Rwanda plan, which has become a flagship policy of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a time when his party’s approval ratings have floundered, now seems closer than ever to becoming a reality. But critics say it raises profound questions about the rule of law and the separation of powers in Britain, and could impact thousands of asylum seekers. Rights groups have vowed to fight the plan in the courts.

Here’s what to know.

What is the Rwanda policy?

As the number of asylum seekers arriving across the English Channel rose after a lull during the coronavirus pandemic, the Conservative government pledged to “stop the boats.” Most of those arriving by small, often unseaworthy boats apply for international protection in Britain through the asylum system, and many are later found to be refugees and permitted to settle in Britain.

Through a series of bills and agreements, the government introduced a policy that said that anyone arriving by small boat or any another “irregular means” would never be admissible for asylum in Britain. Instead, they would be detained and sent to Rwanda, where their asylum cases would be heard, and if successful, they would be resettled there.

The government has argued that the Rwanda policy will be a deterrent, stemming the flow of tens of thousands of people who make dangerous crossings from France to Britain each year. This has been questioned by some migration experts who say that the people on small boats already risk their lives to travel to Britain.

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