UN Officials Call UK’s Latest Rwanda Safety Bill a Risky Move

Following the United Kingdom Parliament’s passage of the “Safety of Rwanda” bill, two top UN officials sounded an alarm on Tuesday about its harmful impact on global responsibility-sharing, human rights and refugee protection.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Volker Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a joint statement calling on the UK Government to reconsider its plan to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda.

This arrangement seeks to shift responsibility for refugee protection, undermining international cooperation, Mr. Grandi added.

“The new legislation marks a further step away from the UK’s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention,” he said. “Protecting refugees requires all countries, not just those neighbouring crisis zones, to uphold their obligations.”

Instead, the UK should take practical measures to address irregular flows of refugees and migrants, based on international cooperation and respect for international human rights law, the UN officials said.

© UNICEF/Alex Nicodim

A Ukrainian girl comforts her six-year-old brother as they prepare to leave a UNICEF-supported centre in Romania for their next destination. (file)

Raises risks for asylum seekers

The asylum and immigration legislation, known commonly as the Safety of Rwanda bill, was tabled before Parliament alongside the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Treaty after the UK’s Supreme Court found last year that the proposed transfer of asylum seekers to the African country would breach international and UK law.

The court’s decision had noted weaknesses in Rwanda’s system for determining individual asylum claims.

But, the bill and the treaty do not in practice overcome the protection gaps identified by the Supreme Court, the UN officials stated, adding that once enacted, the measures will restrict the UK courts from properly scrutinising removal decisions, leaving asylum seekers with limited room to appeal even if they face significant risks.

New bill sets ‘a perilous precedent’

Mr. Türk said the bill infringes on the rule of law.

“By shifting responsibility for refugees, reducing the UK’s courts’ ability to scrutinise removal decisions, restricting access to legal remedies in the UK and limiting the scope of domestic and international human rights protections for a specific group of people, this new legislation seriously hinders the rule of law in the UK and sets a perilous precedent globally,” the UN rights chief said.

He said it is critical to the protection of the human rights and dignity of refugees and migrants seeking protection that all removals from the UK are carried out after assessing their specific individual circumstances in strict compliance with international human rights and refugee law.

A fair, efficient and well-governed migration and asylum system is key to ensuring access to protection for those in need and enabling the return home of those with no lawful basis to remain, the UN officials said.

Acknowledging the challenges presented by the irregular movement of refugees and migrants, often in dangerous circumstances, the UN leaders nonetheless expressed grave concern that the legislation would facilitate transfers under the UK-Rwanda asylum partnership, with only limited consideration of their individual circumstances or any protection risks.

They called on the UK instead to pursue practical cooperation with countries along the routes that refugees and migrants take, to strengthen protection and offer real alternatives. This includes expanding safe and regular pathways to protection, they said.

© Unsplash/Sebastian Grochowicz

A plane about to take off from Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom.

Progressively restrictive laws

The UN officials pointed out that the new legislation is the third in a series of progressively restrictive laws that have eroded access to refugee protection in the UK since 2022, including through a ban on access to asylum or other forms of permission to stay in the UK for those arriving irregularly via a third country.

If implemented, the new bill would “pave the way for asylum seekers, including families with children, to be summarily sent to Rwanda to present their asylum claims, with no prospect of return to the UK”, they said.

The new bill will also drastically limit the ability for asylum seekers to challenge or appeal removal decisions, with decision makers and judges required to conclusively treat Rwanda as a “safe” country in terms of protecting asylum seekers, regardless of any evidence to the contrary, now or in the future, the UN officials said.

This situation is even more concerning given the legislation expressly authorises the UK Government to disregard any protective interim remedies from the European Court of Human Rights, the UN chiefs warned.



  1. As an advocate for human rights, I strongly believe that the UK’s decision to pass the ‘Safety in Rwanda’ bill is concerning. It undermines global responsibility-sharing and puts refugee protection at risk. The UK should reconsider this plan and prioritize upholding international obligations to protect refugees.

  2. Isn’t it concerning that the UK is shifting responsibility for refugee protection? What are the potential consequences of such actions?

    1. It is indeed concerning, Jennifer. The UK’s decision to shift responsibility for refugee protection could have severe consequences on global humanitarian efforts. By transferring asylum seekers to Rwanda, the UK risks setting a dangerous precedent that undermines international cooperation and human rights standards. It is crucial for all countries to fulfill their obligations to protect refugees, regardless of their proximity to crisis zones.

  3. Do you think the UK Government’s decision to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda will truly benefit refugee protection and international cooperation?

    1. As a journalist covering refugee issues, I believe the UK Government’s move to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda poses significant risks to both refugee protection and international cooperation. This decision could set a dangerous precedent by shifting responsibility away from the UK and undermining global efforts to support those in need. It’s crucial for all countries to uphold their obligations and work together to ensure the safety and well-being of refugees worldwide.

  4. Isn’t it concerning that the UK’s new policy may jeopardize global responsibility-sharing and human rights protections?

    1. It is indeed worrying that the UK’s latest policy could endanger global responsibility-sharing and human rights protections. The joint statement from the UN officials highlights the potential harmful impact on refugee protection and international cooperation. Hopefully, the UK Government will reconsider this risky move and prioritize upholding its obligations to protect refugees.

  5. As an advocate for refugee rights, I strongly believe that the UK’s decision to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda is a dangerous move that undermines global responsibility-sharing and human rights protection. It’s crucial for all countries to uphold their obligations in protecting refugees, rather than shifting responsibility and risking breaching international agreements.

  6. As a concerned citizen, I believe the UK government should reconsider the “Safety of Rwanda” bill. It appears to undermine global responsibility-sharing and goes against international cooperation on refugee protection. The focus should be on upholding obligations to protect refugees, rather than transferring asylum seekers to Rwanda.

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