UK’s Rwanda Asylum Plan Explained 2024 | Primus Solicitors

Rwanda asylum plan


In a significant policy development, the UK government has unveiled a plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, a move that has sparked widespread debate and legal scrutiny. In November, the UK Supreme Court ruled this plan unlawful, citing concerns over the risk of asylum seekers being returned to their home countries where they might face harm. This concept, known as refoulement, is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to which the UK is a signatory.

In response to the court’s ruling, the UK government has taken steps to fortify its stance. A new treaty with Rwanda was signed to enhance the asylum process, alongside proposing new UK laws. These laws explicitly declare Rwanda a safe country, a move that challenges the traditional interpretation of the UK Human Rights Act and brings the UK’s obligations under the ECHR into focus.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, emphasising the importance of this plan, stated that “stopping the boats” was one of his key priorities. This statement refers to the increasing number of asylum seekers arriving in the UK through unofficial and often perilous routes, such as small boats across the English Channel. The government’s stance is that the asylum plan would act as a deterrent to such illegal and dangerous methods of entry into the UK.

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The Rwanda Asylum Plan

The Rwanda Asylum Plan is a ground breaking five-year trial initiative by the UK government, first announced in April 2022. This plan outlines a procedure where certain asylum seekers arriving in the UK would be sent to Rwanda for processing. Upon arrival in Rwanda, these individuals could either be granted refugee status and permitted to stay, or they might apply to settle on other grounds, or seek asylum in a different “safe third country”.

This policy is particularly aimed at those entering the UK through unofficial channels post-January 1, 2022. The government has stated there is no cap on the number of asylum seekers that could be sent to Rwanda under this plan. However, it’s noteworthy that, to date, no asylum seeker has actually been relocated to Rwanda. The first scheduled flight in June 2022 was cancelled following a series of legal challenges.

The UK government insists that this policy would serve as a deterrent against illegal, dangerous, or unnecessary methods of entry into the UK, such as the perilous journey across the English Channel in small boats. This approach, according to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, aligns with his administration’s priority of “stopping the boats” – a reference to curbing the steadily increasing flow of asylum seekers undertaking risky voyages to reach the UK.

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Key Aspects of the New Bill

The bill allows for asylum seekers to challenge their removal to Rwanda based on individual circumstances. However, it introduces a critical change: ministers are empowered to override emergency orders from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that could suspend a flight during ongoing legal proceedings. This aspect of the bill has stirred controversy, with some Conservative politicians expressing concerns about its potential to be blocked by the courts again. Others argue that it may breach international law.

Aspect Description
Purpose Reinforcing the Rwanda Asylum Plan in the UK.
Rwanda Designation Declares Rwanda as a ‘safe country’ under UK law.
Legal Implications Carries significant legal implications. Instructs judges to disregard parts of the UK Human Rights Act.
Individual Challenge Allows asylum seekers to challenge removal based on individual circumstances.
Ministerial Override Empowers ministers to override emergency orders from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) regarding flights during ongoing legal proceedings.
Controversy Controversial aspect of the bill, with concerns raised by some Conservative politicians and potential breaches of international law.
Parliamentary Approval Pending approval by the UK Parliament.
Support and Opposition Passed the first vote in Parliament, with some Conservative MPs abstaining from voting.

New Treaty with Rwanda and its Provisions

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the UK government signed a new migration treaty with Rwanda on 5 December. This treaty is a cornerstone of the government’s strategy to implement the Rwanda Asylum Plan and addresses some of the legal concerns raised by the Supreme Court.

Home Secretary James Cleverley ensures that the treaty states individuals removed will not be at risk of refoulement. Key provisions of this treaty include the establishment of a new independent monitoring committee, responsible for ensuring Rwanda’s compliance with its obligations under the agreement. Additionally, the UK has committed to funding British and Commonwealth judges to oversee a new appeals process in Rwanda.

Another significant aspect of the treaty is the UK’s agreement to cover the accommodation and living expenses of those relocated to Rwanda for up to five years. This commitment reflects the UK government’s effort to provide a sustainable and humane solution for asylum seekers, albeit in a different country.

Cost of the Rwanda Plan

The financial implications of the UK’s Rwanda Asylum Plan are a significant aspect of the policy, drawing both scrutiny and debate. In 2022, the UK government committed £140 million to Rwanda as part of this plan. Subsequent to this, the Home Office’s top civil servant confirmed an additional £100 million contribution in 2023 and an anticipated £50 million in 2024. Furthermore, a promise of an extra £50 million in 2026 was made, showcasing the UK’s continued financial commitment to this initiative.


Amount Committed (in £ millions)

2022 £140
2023 £100
2024 £50
2026 £50 (promised)

As of now, the UK’s asylum system costs about £3 billion annually, with approximately £8 million spent daily on hotel accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers.

About Rwanda

Rwanda, the central African nation at the heart of the UK’s asylum plan, is a landlocked country situated in east-central Africa. Approximately 4,000 miles (6,500 km) southeast of the UK, Rwanda shares borders with Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania, and Uganda. It has a population of around 13.8 million people, making it one of the more densely populated countries in Africa.

Human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, have expressed concerns about the political climate in Rwanda, describing it as a country where opposing the government can be perilous. This backdrop is crucial to understanding the complexities and controversies surrounding the UK’s decision to remove individuals when processing asylum seekers.


The UK’s plan to remove has introduced a complex and controversial chapter in the realm of immigration and asylum policy. Initiated as a response to the growing number of asylum seekers using unofficial routes to enter the UK, this plan has been met with legal challenges, ethical questions, and intense public debate.

The Supreme Court’s ruling against the plan due to concerns of refoulement and the subsequent signing of a new treaty illustrates the dynamic and contentious nature of this policy. The financial implications, alongside the human rights considerations and legal complexities, add further layers to the discussion.

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