UN expert criticises UK's Rwanda asylum plan

by IANS |

Geneva, June 18 (IANS) A UN human rights expert urged the UK to halt plans to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda and voiced serious concern that the plan violates international law.

"There are serious risks that the international law principle of non-refoulement will be breached by forcibly transferring asylum seekers to Rwanda," especially women and children, Siobhan Mullally, UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, said.

The Rwanda asylum plan, announced by the UK government in April, is supposed to give asylum seekers who cross the Channel to the UK a one-way ticket to Rwanda to claim asylum there instead, reports Xinhua news agency.

The first flight due to take the asylum seekers to Rwanda was cancelled earlier this week after a last-minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) led to fresh challenges in the UK courts.

The UN special rapporteur welcomed the ECHR's urgent interim measures, saying that transferring asylum seekers to third countries does nothing to prevent or combat human trafficking.

"In fact, it is likely to push desperate people into riskier and more dangerous situations."

Mullally voiced her concern that the arrangement fails to safeguard the rights of asylum seekers, who are victims of trafficking and seeking protection in the UK.

Following public announcements about the plan in April this year, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also expressed strong opposition and urged the UK to refrain from transferring asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda for asylum processing.

"Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention," the UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, said.

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