Rishi Sunak’s plan to deport individuals to Rwanda has suffered a defeat in the House of Lords.

Peers voted 214 to 171 to delay the ratification of a treaty with the East African country, which is a crucial part of the Prime Minister’s policy. This comes shortly after the Prime Minister urged the House of Lords not to obstruct his plans to send refugees to Rwanda before the general election.

Lord Goldsmith of the Labour Party proposed a motion suggesting that Parliament should not ratify the Rwanda treaty until the safety of the country can be proven by the ministers.


In December, the government agreed to a legally binding treaty to address concerns raised by the High Court about the possibility of asylum seekers being deported to Rwanda and then returned to a country where they could be at risk. However, Lord Goldsmith, the chair of the House of Lords commission on international treaties, has stated that the promised protections are incomplete.

During the debate, the former Attorney General stated that the government’s evidence highlights at least 10 areas where significant additional legal and practical measures are required to implement the treaty’s intended protections. The government has already presented a Bill to Parliament asking for a judgment that Rwanda is now safe. However, it is important to note that this statement is subjective and should be marked as such.

He stated that the treaty should not be ratified until parliament has had the opportunity to fully scrutinise it and its implementation measures to determine whether Rwanda is safe.
Dick Newby, Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in the House of Lords, commented that the policy has been unworkable and a waste of time and money.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, the Conservatives are determined to push this policy forward. It is recommended that the government accept the reality of the situation and move on from this policy.

In response to the debate, Lord Sharpe of Epsom, the Minister for the Interior, stated that the Rwanda partnership was established to enhance the UK’s efforts to combat illegal migration. This is a significant issue that not only costs the UK taxpayer money but also puts lives at risk as people undertake high-risk voyages.

However, his statement was met with jeers when he questioned whether the Labour Party was using the House of Lords to try to defeat their plan to stop the boats. The vote on Monday evening was the initial test for Rish Sunak’s plan in the upper chamber, ahead of a crucial debate on the actual Rwanda legislation that is set to begin next week.

The bilateral agreement is a response to the High Court’s ruling that the administration’s Rwanda plan is illegal.

Its aim is to address concerns that asylum applicants sent from the UK to Rwanda may face ‘refoulment’ – being sent back to the country from where they originally fled, even if they face torture, persecution or death.

The Committee noted that the Administration presented the Rwanda Agreement to the House in response to the High Court’s ruling, asking it to declare Rwanda a safe state based on the Agreement.

However, the current provisions of the contract are imperfect and require rigorous implementation. The agreement calls for many further legal and practical steps that will take time.

RwandaA new asylum law in Rwanda

* Addresses concerns about “refoulment

* A procedure for the submission of individual complaints to the monitoring committee

* The appointment of independent experts as advisers to the asylum first instance and appeal bodies

* Appointment of the co-presidents of the Board of Appeal

* Appointing international judges

* Training of international judges in Rwandan law and practice

* Training for Rwandan officials who deal with asylum seekers; and

* Steps to ensure sufficient numbers of trained legal advisers and interpreters.

The report published last week emphasised that the arrangements put in place by the treaty require time to demonstrate their effectiveness in practice.

The evidence received suggests that the Treaty is unlikely to change the situation in Rwanda in the short to medium term. However, the Home Office has not provided a clear timetable for implementation.

The second motion tabled by Lord Goldsmith states: This House resolves, in accordance with section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, that the UK Government should not ratify the UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Agreement until the safeguards it provides are fully implemented. This is because Parliament is being asked to make a judgement on whether Rwanda is safe based on the Agreement.

The Rwanda Security Bill, which has been approved by the Commons, aims to require judges in the UK to consider Rwanda a safe country for asylum seekers and economic migrants who cross the Channel in small boats.

The Bill will now proceed to the Lords, where it will be read in late January, with a possible third reading in mid-March.

Last week, Rajnak cautioned the Lords not to obstruct what she referred to as the ‘will of the people’ regarding Rwanda policy.

Conservative peer Baroness Nicky Morgan expressed her concern about the language used by the previous Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, when he referred to ‘the will of the people’.

However, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer pointed out that the legislation passed through the Commons with a large majority.

The bill was approved by the Commons with 320 votes in favour and 276 against, despite 11 Tory MPs, including former home secretary Suella Braverman, voting against it.

In an effort to address the concerns of the High Court, Mr Sunak aims to secure approval of a new legally binding treaty with Rwanda. Additionally, he has proposed legislation asking Parliament to confirm that it considers Rwanda a ‘safe country’ to reduce the likelihood of future flight disruptions.

According to Home Office officials, the treaty aims to prevent ‘refoulment’, which is the removal and return of asylum seekers to a country where they face persecution. The Supreme Court’s concerns have been addressed in the treaty.

The agreement requires ratification by both the UK and Rwandan parliaments to become internationally binding. The objective of the agreement is to prevent the deportation of migrants and their return to their home country or any other country after their arrival in the UK.

It will also establish a new appeals process within Rwanda’s High Court to handle exceptional cases. For instance, if an individual residing in the country under the scheme commits a crime, the government may choose to deport them.

Judges from the UK, the Commonwealth, and Rwanda will preside over the hearings in the appeal court. The judgments will determine whether asylum seekers are allowed to stay in Rwanda or are returned to Britain.


The recently published Rwanda Security (Asylum and Migration) Act requires judges to consider the country as ‘safe’, overriding certain parts of the Human Rights Act and international law.

While those seeking asylum can still appeal against deportation based on their individual circumstances, they cannot argue that being deported to Rwanda would pose a risk of refoulment.

It is possible for a court of law to declare that the legislation is incompatible with the Human Rights Act. However, this would not automatically prevent the Act from operating.

 Joram Jojo