Amendment 19

Part of Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 1:45 pm on 14 February 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour 1:45, 14 February 2024

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, who has put his case with the precision and succinctness that we remember of our late friend Lord Judge. These amendments would render the safety of Rwanda, which we hope will come in the future, a rebuttable presumption rather than an absolute conclusion. They echo my Amendment 34, which we discussed in the first group, but put more flesh on those bones. I commend them to the Committee.

I also remind the Committee that the amendments echo a finding by your Lordships’ Constitution Committee. Ministers say that it is precedented and normal to have lists of safe countries in asylum statutes. That has been the case in the past, but in those past cases the consequence of being a safe country on a so-called and unfortunately coined white list of countries has been only a rebuttable presumption. So Ministers were wrong, for example, to say during the course of the Illegal Migration Act, “Nothing special here, nothing new”, when they said that it will be an absolute conclusion and irrebuttable presumption that any country is absolutely safe.

We need to amend this Bill in good faith. We need belts and braces. We will have to look at other provisions and amendments around how it is that we will judge when Rwanda becomes safe, as we all want it to be. In any event, even when all the experts in the world—the UNHCR, independent monitors, parliamentary committees —say that things have gone well in the last couple of years and that the treaty worked out, and how wrong we were to be so sceptical as things have gone so well, so quickly, and Rwanda is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world for its treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, it is still right in principle that the presumption of safety should be a rebuttable presumption and not an absolute conclusion that squeezes out the judgment of civil servants, Border Force and Ministers, or ousts the jurisdiction of our courts.