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Former UK home secretary Suella Braverman has lashed out at Rishi Sunak, saying his plans to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda were doomed to fail unless emergency legislation is introduced that expressly overrides international human rights and refugee law.
Braverman was sacked by Sunak on Monday, two days before the government’s flagship policy designed to curtail irregular cross-Channel migration by removing asylum seekers to Rwanda was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court.
The prime minister has since vowed to transform the UK’s memorandum of understanding with Rwanda on removals into a legally binding treaty, and to address shortcomings in the central African nation’s asylum processes outlined by the court.
He would also legislate to state that Rwanda is “safe” despite the court ruling that there was a real risk that asylum seekers could be repatriated to their country of origin and persecuted.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Braverman said the government lost the case in the court because the judges determined that Rwanda could not be trusted to fulfil its commitments to the UK on the safety of people sent there.
It was “not because those promises were embodied in one type of legal instrument, a memorandum, rather than another, a treaty,” she said, adding that to deliver the policy through a new treaty would take at “least another year”.
The Rwanda policy is a key plank of Sunak’s plans to prevent migrants coming to the UK in small boats across the England Channel, and to break the business model of people traffickers.
But it has been held up by legal challenges from the outset, with the first planned flight grounded by a ruling last year by the European Court of Human Rights.
In order to get ahead of another likely round of legal challenges, Braverman suggested that the UK embed observers and independent reviewers in Rwanda to monitor asylum decisions there.
“The entirety of the [UK] Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights, and other relevant international obligations, or legislation, including the [UN] Refugee Convention, must be disapplied by way of clear ‘notwithstanding’ clauses” in Sunak’s legislation, she said.
Sunak’s latest proposals to bolster his Rwanda policy have been strongly criticised by some members of the legal profession.
He is under pressure from rightwing MPs in the Conservative party to take radical action to try to ensure that the policy is implemented before the general election expected in 2024.
James Cleverly, who replaced Braverman as home secretary in Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle, insisted on Thursday that the government would be able to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda before the election.
He said the UK would not have to leave the European Convention on Human Rights to implement the government’s latest proposals.
“I believe we can act in accordance with international law,” he told the BBC.
The Home Office has been approached for comment.