Amendment 22

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords am 9:15 pm ar 4 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 9:15, 4 Mawrth 2024

No, I cannot. I will have to come back to the noble Lord.

Rwanda is a signatory to the 2011 United Nations statement condemning violence against LGBT people, and it has joined nine other African countries to support LGBT rights. As part of the published evidence pack, the updated country policy information note gave careful consideration to evidence relating to the treatment of LGBT individuals in Rwanda. The Rwandan legal protection for LGBT rights is generally considered more progressive than that of neighbouring countries, as has been alluded to.

Amendment 25, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, relates to claims on religion or belief grounds being taken into consideration for whether Rwanda is a safe country. The amendment specifically mentions an individual’s “religion or belief”, but the effect would be to permit the Secretary of State to consider whether an individual who is due to be relocated to Rwanda has any refugee convention reasons why Rwanda would not be safe for them, including on grounds of religion or belief. In effect, this would be considering a protection claim for a third-country national whose home country is not Rwanda.

A number of noble Lords raised concerns about religious tolerance in Rwanda and sought to argue that it would be unsafe for individuals who followed minority faiths or had no faith at all. The Government disagree with this contention. As our policy statement and the country information note on human rights make clear, and as I set out in my letter following Second Reading, the Rwandan constitution provides protection for individuals of different religions and faiths, as well as prohibiting discrimination of the grounds of religion or faith. Taken with the appropriate safeguards, which are set out in the Bill and elsewhere in our partnership with Rwanda, decision-makers will be in a position to consider the particular circumstances of each case, including where they involve an individual’s religious beliefs.

As I set out during an earlier debate, the Bill, along with the evidence of changes and the treaty, makes it clear that Rwanda is safe generally, and decision-makers, as well as courts and tribunals, must treat it conclusively as such. This ensures that removals cannot be delayed or frustrated by systemic challenges on safety. For this reason, I cannot accept Amendments 31 and 32 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher.

Amendment 31 would remove the need for the risk of harm, when a serious and irreversible harm test is carried out, to be imminent. If accepted, this would enable a court or tribunal to delay or prevent a person’s removal to Rwanda based on a risk of harm that may not materialise for many months, if not years, after the person’s removal to Rwanda. This cannot be right. We cannot have a position whereby a person’s removal from this country is prevented based on a risk that does not currently exist and may not exist until a significant amount of time has elapsed after the person is removed. These provisions are consistent with the measures introduced in the Illegal Migration Act, agreed by this House last year. “Imminent” features in the European Court of Human Rights’ practice direction on interim measures. Clause 4(4) is not out of step with the Strasbourg court.

Amendment 32 would disapply Section 54 of the Illegal Migration Act, enabling the UK courts to grant an interim remedy preventing removal to Rwanda in cases where the duty to remove applied. This would undermine the suspensive claims procedure provided for in that Act. It risks vexatious claims being brought at the last minute in an attempt to frustrate removal, which would weaken the effectiveness of that Act. These amendments ultimately undermine the core principles of the Bill, and the Government cannot support them.

I turn to the position of potential and confirmed victims of modern slavery. The UK has a proactive duty to identify victims of modern slavery. We remain committed to ensuring that, when indicators that someone is a victim of modern slavery are identified by first responders, they continue to be referred into the national referral mechanism for consideration by the competent authorities. For all cases, steps will be taken to identify whether a person may be a victim of modern slavery. If a person is referred into the national referral mechanism, a reasonable grounds decision will be made.

The amendment proposed would act to impede the provisions already passed in the Nationality and Borders Act and the Illegal Migration Act, which introduced the means to disqualify certain individuals from the national referral mechanism on grounds of public order before a conclusive grounds is considered. Furthermore, the amendment is unnecessary, because it is important to be clear that the Government of Rwanda have systems in place to safeguard relocated individuals with a range of vulnerabilities, including those concerning mental health and gender-based violence.

If there is a positive reasonable grounds decision in a pre-Illegal Migration Act case, the provisions in Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Act will protect the person from removal pending a conclusive grounds decision, unless they are disqualified on the grounds of public order.

As I set out in my letter to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, under Article 5(2)(d) of the treaty the United Kingdom may, when necessary for the purposes of relocation and when UK GDPR compliant, provide Rwanda with

“the outcome of any decision in the United Kingdom as to whether the Relocated Individual is a victim of trafficking”,

and this includes positive reasonable grounds decisions. Under Article 13(1) of the treaty, Rwanda must

“have regard to information provided about a Relocated Individual relating to any special needs that may arise as a result of their being a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking, and … take all necessary steps to ensure that these needs are accommodated”.