Amendment 68

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 11:15 pm on 19 February 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Lord Coaker:

Moved by Lord Coaker

68: After Clause 5, insert the following new Clause—“Return of individuals due to serious criminal offences(1) A Minister of the Crown must lay a statement before Parliament within 30 days if both of the following conditions are met—(a) the Secretary of State has approved a request from the Republic of Rwanda to return to the UK a person previously relocated under the terms of the Rwanda Treaty, and(b) the person specified in paragraph (a) had their permission to remain in the Republic of Rwanda revoked owing to the person’s participation in serious crime.(2) If Parliament is notified of the conditions being met as set out in subsection (1)—(a) a motion must be moved by a Minister of the Crown to be debated on the floor of the House of Commons, and(b) the motion must require the House to—(i) consider the statement laid before Parliament under section (1), and(ii) consider whether or not as a result of the contents of the statement, there should be a suspension of the Rwanda Treaty.”Member's explanatory statementThis new Clause would ensure that Parliament is notified of any individuals involved in criminal activity who are transferred from Rwanda to the UK, and that the House of Commons is able to both debate the case and discuss its implications for the future of the Rwanda scheme.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, this is a very small amendment. I tabled this amendment because I read that, according to what the Home Secretary said, it will be possible for people who have sought or been given asylum in Rwanda to be returned to this country if they are guilty of a serious offence.

Can the Minister say whether the Government have any idea of the numbers that they expect to be returned, or is it just a small number, as the Home Secretary said? What is the definition of a serious crime that would require somebody to be returned to the UK from Rwanda? Can we refuse somebody who is in Rwanda and the Rwanda Government are seeking to return on the basis that they have been guilty of a serious crime? Can the UK Government refuse to accept them back from Rwanda, if that is the case? If they are successfully returned to the UK from Rwanda because of the serious crime that they have committed, or the national security threat that they pose, what is their status when they are back in the UK? If we chose to do so, would we be able to deport them to another country?

This is a probing amendment; I was just curious, when I heard the Home Secretary talking about the possibility of criminals who had been deported to Rwanda being returned to the UK. It would be helpful to have a few answers to those questions. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Stewart of Dirleton Lord Stewart of Dirleton The Advocate-General for Scotland

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for Amendment 68, but I cannot support its addition to the Bill. We do not consider such a change necessary, as individuals would be returned from Rwanda only in extremely limited circumstances, which we have agreed to in this legally binding treaty.

The first question that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, posed was to ask the Government again for numbers, as he had in the previous amendment. I do not think that any attempt to estimate likely numbers of people committing serious crimes is something that the Government could be expected to provide. If somebody who has been relocated to Rwanda commits a very serious crime, there is a chance that they could have their status revoked. In these limited circumstances, they may be removed to the United Kingdom, but only after they have served any prison sentence in Rwanda. This will ensure the non-refoulement element of the treaty will not be breached.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

Could the Minister define the prison sentence? Is it any prison sentence, or is it a sentence of two, four or five years?

Photo of Lord Stewart of Dirleton Lord Stewart of Dirleton The Advocate-General for Scotland

The provision in the treaty is reserved for the most serious crimes—one punishable by five years or more imprisonment.

The amendment would necessitate, in the rare event of such returns to the United Kingdom, parliamentary consideration as to whether the Rwanda treaty should be suspended. However, it does not follow that, because an individual is returned from Rwanda to the United Kingdom because of serious criminality, the whole treaty is called into question. The return of individuals to the United Kingdom, including in these circumstances, is envisaged expressly by the treaty. It would be an example of the treaty functioning as it should, not a reason for its suspension.

Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat

The Minister quite rightly says that it is in the treaty—under Article 11, I assume. But that article says that the person will come back to the United Kingdom only with the relocated individual’s consent. If that consent is not given, what happens in this instance?

Photo of Lord Stewart of Dirleton Lord Stewart of Dirleton The Advocate-General for Scotland

I will have to revert to the noble Lord with an answer to that question, which is a hypothetical situation I had not considered.

The Government have set out the expense caused to the British taxpayer of billions of pounds in relation to illegal migration. As my noble friend Lord Sharpe of Epsom has pointed out on more than one occasion, our primary concern is the dreadful cost in life that it is inflicting. That is why we need bold and novel solutions towards ending it. Deterrence is a key element of the Rwanda partnership. Ultimately, we need to stop people making dangerous and illegal journeys across the channel. It is vital that we can show those who enter the United Kingdom illegally that they will not be permitted to remain here, thus breaking the model of the people smugglers and helping us to put an end to their vile trade. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords)

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am grateful also to the noble Lord, Lord True, for his encouragement—I have about half an hour now.

The serious point is that that was very helpful. This is a niche little amendment, but it is quite important. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, because I had not actually picked that up. It is a niche amendment but this is worth asking questions about, to get some detail from the Minister, and I am grateful for his response. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 68 withdrawn.

Amendments 69 to 76A not moved.

Clause 6 agreed.

Clause 7: Interpretation

Amendments 77 to 79 not moved.

Clause 7 agreed.

Clause 8: Extent

Amendment 80 not moved.

Clause 8 agreed.

Clause 9: Commencement and transitional provision

Amendments 81 to 90 not moved.