Amendment 22

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords am 9:30 pm ar 4 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Etherton Lord Etherton Crossbench 9:30, 4 Mawrth 2024

I am very grateful to the Minister for that analysis of the speeches made and the Government’s response to them. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, which has raised some important points about people who are extremely vulnerable.

The noble Lords, Lord Kerr and Lord Coaker, articulated the point that all these amendments dealing with exemptions are objectively extremely reasonable and important, and do not involve huge numbers of people such as to undermine the effectiveness of this proposed legislation. Descending to details to say that they are not necessary, when it is plain that they are, shows a certain lack of not only sensitivity to the Chamber but a spirit of humanity which should underlie the Government’s response.

Turning to my Amendment 22 and its consequential amendments, I find it difficult to understand how the Government can justify dropping and effectively disfranchising one of the expressly specified categories of refugee in the convention. There is nothing in the policy statement issued by the Government when the Bill was published or in the Explanatory Notes to say that they would do this. I would have thought that dropping a specific category of refugee defined by this convention which we have signed up to is an extraordinary move.

The justification seems to be that the Government will not permit reference to groups because it would significantly enlarge the number of those entitled to claim. However, if they are entitled to claim by virtue of a convention which we have signed up to, the Government must accept that, like all the other 149 states signed up to it. You cannot simply say, “We’ll ignore this or that category of refugee” or “We’ll just rely on this category of refugee”. There must be an ability, in one way or another, for all those mentioned as refugees to explain why removal would result in persecution and serious harm.

Leaving that matter aside, I will comment on the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Murray, on comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, about the situation of LGBT people in Rwanda. I do not want to go through this again, but there are two factors on which the noble Lord, Lord Murray, did not comment, and in fact have never been commented on appropriately by the Government, by way of some sort of excuse in relation to LGBT people and the risk that they face in leading an openly gay life in Rwanda.

First, the travel information provided by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office remains the same as it always has done, as it was at the time of the Illegal Migration Act: there is a danger to LGBT people living openly as such in Rwanda. Secondly, and importantly, no reference has been made to something that I mentioned in Committee: the country report on Rwanda of the US State Department, which was published only one year ago, and which talks about persecution and the possibility of physical harm to LGBT people. The Government have never addressed those points at all, but I am not going to go further into that.

As to the others, I personally strongly support all the other exemptions, which seem to me to be reasonable, humane and entirely appropriate, not designed to undermine the Bill but really rising to the level of morality which we should display as a country in relation to these categories of people. Having said all of that, and having heard the Minister, the best thing that I can do is to leave it to the amendment in the next group, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, which contains reference to groups. For my part, having had this debate will have been useful in honing the points that will have to be met in relation to that. On that basis, and that basis alone, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 22 withdrawn.

Amendments 23 to 32 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 9.38 pm.