UK, Rwanda sign new migration treaty

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 5 December 2023 at 03:58

The Government of Rwanda and the United Kingdom (UK) have inked a renewed migration treaty, addressing concerns raised by the UK Supreme Court and marking a pivotal step forward in their Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) initiated in April of the previous year.

Originally intended to involve the relocation of illegal migrants to Rwanda, the MEDP faced setbacks when the UK Supreme Court declared the initial deportation scheme unlawful on November 15.

The court expressed concerns about the potential risk asylum seekers faced upon being sent to Rwanda. Responding to these concerns, Rwanda underscored the necessity of a binding treaty between the two nations.

The Migration and Economic Partnership Treaty, was signed on Tuesday December 5, 2023, in Kigali, between Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta, and the recently appointed UK Home Secretary, James Cleverly.

This renewed agreement reiterates the provisions of the initial plan, emphasizing the transfer of migrants arriving illegally in the UK through the British Channel to Rwanda. Importantly, Rwanda commits not to repatriate asylum-seekers to their home countries, even if their applications are declined.

Minister Biruta, speaking at a joint press conference, emphasized Rwanda’s commitment to protecting vulnerable individuals, building on the country’s history of welcoming refugees and migrants.

"Rwanda is very committed to this partnership, and that is why we worked with the UK government to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court," Dr. Biruta stated.

The new treaty introduces a significant enhancement to the appeals process, establishing an appeals tribunal under Rwandan law overseen by two co-presidents and a panel of judges from diverse nationalities. This tribunal will play a crucial role in hearing appeals in the event of denied asylum claims.

UK Home Secretary Cleverly acknowledged Rwanda’s professionalism in handling migration affairs and expressed a shared desire to continually improve the process. He highlighted that the treaty’s signing strengthens and enhances the MEDP, solidifying Rwanda’s reputation for humane and professional administration of refugees and migrant affairs.

The Rwandan government, in a statement, emphasized that this partnership aligns with their commitment to protecting vulnerable people and providing a home for migrants and refugees globally. The statement concludes, "We believe today’s treaty provides the necessary assurances that will allow the partnership to move forward."

The renewed treaty not only re-emphasizes existing commitments but also establishes a robust framework to address concerns raised in the legal process regarding the protection of asylum seekers.

Additionally, it underlines the collaborative efforts of Rwanda and the UK in creating a Migration and Economic Development Partnership that aims to deter dangerous migration journeys while addressing the global imbalance of economic opportunity—a crucial step towards addressing the root causes of mass irregular migration.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta exchanging documents with UK Home Secretary, James Cleverly after signing the revised migration treaty in Kigali.
The revised migration treaty was signed on Tuesday 5th December 2023 between Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta and UK Home Secretary, James Cleverly on his visit to Kigali.