House of Lords votes to stop Afghan servicemen being sent to Rwanda

House of Lords votes to stop Afghan servicemen being sent to Rwanda
House of Lords votes to stop Afghan servicemen being sent to Rwanda

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: The House of Lords has backed a move to prevent Afghan nationals who served alongside UK forces from being sent to Rwanda.

Amendments to the government’s Safety of Rwanda bill are currently being debated by peers, who on Wednesday voted 244 to 160 in favor of a proposal by the former Labour Defence Secretary Lord Browne, to ensure Afghans who helped the UK prior to the 2021 Taliban takeover in an “exposed or meaningful manner,” along with their families, would not be at risk of deportation to the East African country.

The Lords also approved an amendment by 278 votes to 189 to halt government plans to take decisions on Rwanda removal cases out of the hands of domestic courts in the UK.

In addition, a motion to consider appeals against age assessment decisions before removal to Rwanda for people claiming to be unaccompanied children was also approved by 265 votes to 181.

Government proposals in their current form would allow asylum-seekers to be deported if designated adults by two Home Office officials following a decision “based on appearance and demeanor,” according to The Independent.

Speaking on Wednesday, Lord Dubs, who fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for the UK as a child refugee in 1939, told the Lords: “It’s difficult assessing the age of children. Officials can get it wrong, and this modest amendment simply seeks to provide a safeguard against getting it wrong.

“Yes, the minister can say, ‘If we get it wrong the child can be brought back from Rwanda.’ What a terrible thing to subject a child to. Asylum-seeking children are among the most vulnerable of all asylum-seekers.”

He was echoed by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Guli Francis-Dehqani, a former child refugee from Iran, who said: “Safeguarding is not some burdensome requirement, but a legal and moral imperative.”

The proposed legislation by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is part of a key pre-election pledge to “stop the boats” that have facilitated a significant number of people entering the UK illegally via the English Channel.

If made law, it would give the government the power to start sending asylum-seekers — who arrive in the UK illegally — to Rwanda in order for their claims to be processed, and would even allow ministers to ignore decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights.

The three defeats in the Lords follow five similar setbacks in the upper house on Monday, and Sunak has urged peers not to frustrate “the will of the people” by consistently blocking and amending the bill, which has already been approved by the House of Commons.

However, on Wednesday Labour peer Lord Coaker told the Lords: “The courts are there to ensure justice is done and I think justice in this case does require the ability for the law, as it impacts on an individual, to be tested in the courts.

“That strikes me as something which is fundamental to the way rule of law operates. Sometimes that’s really inconvenient to governments ... but justice is an important part of our democracy.”

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