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Keir Starmer
BlogExecutive Committee

PM Keir Starmer cancels ‘stillborn’ Rwanda plan

PM Starmer, abandoned the plan to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda. The scheme faced legal challenges and was deemed ineffective. Britain’s new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, announced on Saturday that he would cancel a plan to fly thousands of asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda. This plan, originally introduced by the Conservative government in 2022, aimed to stop asylum seekers from arriving on small boats by sending them to the East African nation. However, the plan faced extensive legal challenges, preventing any asylum seekers from being sent to Rwanda.

In his first press conference as prime minister, Starmer explained that the Rwanda policy would be abandoned because it would have only affected about 1% of asylum seekers and failed to serve as an effective deterrent. He stated, “The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent. I’m not prepared to continue with gimmicks that don’t act as a deterrent.”

The UK Supreme Court had declared the policy unlawful in November 2023, citing concerns that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country. This led to the UK government signing a new treaty with Rwanda and passing new legislation to override the court’s decision. However, the legality of these actions was being challenged by charities and unions in the courts.

The British government had already invested hundreds of millions of pounds in Rwanda to set up accommodation and hire additional officials to process asylum seekers, funds that cannot be recovered. On July 8, Rwanda responded to the UK’s intention to end the Migration and Economic Development Partnership Agreement, stating it was “a problem of the UK, not Rwanda.”

Sonya Sceats, CEO of Freedom from Torture, one of the many organizations and charities that have campaigned to stop the Rwanda plan, welcomed Starmer’s announcement on Saturday. “We applaud Keir Starmer for moving immediately to close the door on this shameful scheme that played politics with the lives of people fleeing torture and persecution,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Agnes Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, had called on the new Labour government to follow through on its campaign promise to scrap the Rwanda pact.

“Our asylum system must be made to focus on delivering as fairly and efficiently as possible the security and certainty to which every refugee is entitled, however they may arrive,” Callamard wrote in a social media post.

She added that this is “just as demanded by our international obligations, the rule of law, and basic respect for every human.”

BY BURAK BATUHAN KARAKUS