CCLC opposes the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024

The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill has passed, and is now law. The legislation strikes a blow to the UK’s commitment to international law.

Against international law

We have worked with our partners in the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium throughout the passage of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill to firmly oppose the legislation in its entirety.

Upholding international law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is what we at Coram Children’s Legal Centre stand for. We deplore this erosion in the UK’s commitment to its international legal obligations.

There has been no Child Rights Impact assessment nor consideration of the legislation’s compatibility with children’s rights.

Families expelled

The UK-Rwanda Treaty, which sits alongside the legislation, makes clear that children in families are at risk of being sent to Rwanda. This kind of forced expulsion of children who seek safety in the UK is contrary to the UK’s commitment to upholding children’s rights and treating their best interests as a primary consideration.

A child’s best interests cannot be upheld by refusing to consider their case for protection and instead exiling them more than 4000 miles away with little, if any, recourse to challenge the decision to remove them and their family to Rwanda.

Sending families to Rwanda is not an appropriate wat for the UK to treat babies, toddlers and children in the UK’s asylum system.

Lone children mistaken for adults

The UK Government does not intend to send unaccompanied children to Rwanda but we and others remain concerned that there is a significant risk of this happening.

Every day we and our partners across the Coram group of children’s charities work with children in the asylum system who have been treated as adults. If an incorrect assessment of age is made, the new asylum regime will not allow the child the chance to challenge the assessment before being sent to Rwanda.

We are worried because of the way we see the Home Office routinely assess unaccompanied children as adults when they arrive in the UK. The practice of Home Office border officials determining age on sight has been shown to result in hundreds of children being incorrectly assessed as adults in recent years. Concerns have been raised by the Children’s Commissioner, HM Inspector of Prisons and the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration about problems with age assessment done by Home Office officials.

Now these children are at risk of being sent by the UK government to Rwanda without a chance to challenge the decision to treat them as an adult.

An asylum system that protects children

We urge the Government to think again before implementing its new asylum scheme and exiling people to Rwanda.

Children who arrive in the UK seeking protection must have their claims considered by the government and fairly determined in line with the UK’s international legal obligations. We lament that the UK’s asylum system has moved so far from upholding the rights of children.