Govt considers basing lawyers in Rwanda as part of asylum deal

Tuesday, Dec 05, 2023

LONDON: British lawyers could be sent to Rwandan courts as part of a new treaty aimed at finally implementing the Government’s plan to fly asylum seekers to the African nation.

Home Secretary James Cleverly is understood to be close to finalising a treaty with Rwanda as part of Rishi Sunak’s goal of making the plan legally watertight following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the scheme.

Cabinet minister Lucy Frazer said the Home Office was looking “very carefully” at the idea of sending UK Government lawyers to Rwanda to address concerns about the legal system there.

The Daily Telegraph reported that British lawyers could be sent to advise Rwandan judges, perhaps for specific asylum case hearings or for longer periods, to help ensure asylum appeals are granted correctly, although the Kigali government is unlikely to accept any arrangement which would look like colonial-style legal interference.

If a deal is reached, Mr Cleverly could head to Rwanda as soon as this week to sign the treaty, with domestic legislation also planned so the UK Parliament could assert the African nation is a safe destination for asylum seekers who arrive in Britain.

Culture Secretary Ms Frazer was pressed on whether British lawyers could be stationed in Rwanda’s courts.She told BBC Breakfast: “There is an issue about processing and I know that the Home Office are looking at that very carefully.”

She added: “I know that the Home Secretary James Cleverly is now working with Rwanda on a new treaty, and we will be bringing forward legislation in due course.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court judgment on November 15, the Government insisted it had been working on contingency measures and promised a treaty with Rwanda within days along with emergency legislation in Parliament – but neither has yet emerged.

There has been speculation that Rwanda is pushing for more money on top of the £140 million already committed to the scheme.

The Sunday Times reported that Kigali is to be given a £15 million top-up payment to agree fresh terms on its agreement with the UK to take migrants who arrive in Britain via small boats.

Prime Minister Mr Sunak met Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the

Cop28 climate talks in Dubai on Friday. He declined afterwards to say how much more money he would spend to get the scheme off the ground. Downing Street insisted there had been no demand for extra money from Rwanda. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Certainly I don’t recognise that figure of £15 million, there’s been no request for additional funding for the treaty made by Rwanda, or not offered by the UK Government.”