UK plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda incompatible with human rights, parliamentary watchdog says

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly Prime Ministers’ Questions session in parliament, London, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo)
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Updated 12 February 2024
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UK plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda incompatible with human rights, parliamentary watchdog says

  • SNP lawmaker Joanna Cherry said the bill ‘risks untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights’
  • Home Office said the Rwanda plan is a ‘bold and innovative’ solution to a ‘major global challenge’

LONDON: The British government’s plan to send some asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda is “fundamentally incompatible” with the UK’s human rights obligations, a parliamentary rights watchdog said Monday, as the contentious bill returned for debate in the House of Lords.
Parliament’s unelected upper chamber is scrutinizing a bill designed to overcome the UK Supreme Court’s ruling that the Rwanda plan is illegal. The court said in November that the East African nation is not a safe country for migrants.
The Safety of Rwanda Bill pronounces the country safe, makes it harder for migrants to challenge deportation and allows the British government to ignore injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights that seek to block removals.
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has members from both government and opposition parties, said in a report that the bill “openly invites the possibility of the UK breaching international law” and allows British officials “to act in a manner that is incompatible with human rights standards.”
Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry, who chairs the committee, said the bill “risks untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights.”
“This bill is designed to remove vital safeguards against persecution and human rights abuses, including the fundamental right to access a court,” she said. “Hostility to human rights is at its heart and no amendments can salvage it.”
The Home Office said the Rwanda plan is a “bold and innovative” solution to a “major global challenge.”
“Rwanda is clearly a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees,” it said in a statement. “It hosts more than 135,000 asylum seekers and stands ready to relocate people and help them rebuild their lives.”
Under the policy, asylum-seekers who reach the UK in small boats across the English Channel would have their claims processed in Rwanda, and stay there permanently. The plan is key to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” bringing unauthorized migrants to the UK Sunak argues that deporting unauthorized asylum-seekers will deter people from making risky journeys and break the business model of people-smuggling gangs.
Human rights groups call the plan inhumane and unworkable, and no one has yet been sent to Rwanda.
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Britain and Rwanda signed a treaty pledging to strengthen protections for migrants. Sunak’s Conservative government argues the treaty allows it to pass a law declaring Rwanda a safe destination.
The bill was approved by the House of Commons last month, though only after 60 members of Sunak’s governing Conservatives rebelled in an effort to make the legislation tougher.
It is now being scrutinized by the Lords, many of whom want to defeat or water down the bill. Unlike the Commons, the governing Conservatives do not hold a majority of seats in the Lords.
Ultimately, the upper house can delay and amend legislation but can’t overrule the elected Commons.


Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

Updated 5 sec ago
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Russian strike on Kharkiv hardware store kills two: official

Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket“
Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store

KYIV: A Russian strike on Saturday hit a store selling building materials in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, killing at least two people, its mayor said.
“We know for sure about two dead,” Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov wrote on Telegram, saying that according to preliminary information the strike hit a hypermarket for construction materials in a residential area.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov said that “two Russian guided bombs hit a construction hypermarket” and “a fire broke out over 15,000 square meters.”
Videos posted by witnesses on social media showed a huge column of black smoke billowing into the sky from the Epitsentr store, located in an area of large stores beside a car park. The chain of hypermarkets sells household and DIY goods.
“We have a large number of people missing. There are many wounded,” Terekhov wrote on Telegram.
“Apparently, the attack was on a shopping center where there were many people — this is pure terrorism.”
The city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest, regularly comes under attack from Russian missiles.
Strikes on the city killed at least seven people on Thursday, local authorities said.
Russia launched a ground offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region on May 10, but Ukraine said Friday that it had managed to halt its progress.

British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

Updated 1 min 6 sec ago
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British man charged after allegedly joining Syrian terror group

LONDON: A British man who allegedly travelled to Syria to fight for the Jaish Al-Fatah group has been charged with terrorism offences, the Metropolitan Police said on Saturday.

Isa Giga was arrested after arriving in London aboard a flight from Turkey on Thursday.

He was due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday. He is suspected of traveling to commit acts of terrorism.

“We have been clear for some time now that should anyone return to the UK whom we suspect of being involved in any terrorist-related activity overseas, then they can expect to be thoroughly investigated,” Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the force’s Counter Terrorism Command told the BBC.

“We work very closely with other partners and agencies here in the UK and overseas in order to do this and help keep the public safe.”


A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

Updated 25 May 2024
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A mob in Pakistan burns down a house and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Qur’an

  • The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha
  • Police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men

LAHORE: Hundreds of Muslims in eastern Pakistan went on a rampage over allegations that a Christian man had desecrated the pages of Islam’s holy book, ransacking and burning his house and beating him before police officers rescued the man and his father, officials said.
The incident occurred Saturday in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha, a city in Punjab province, said district police chief Ijaz Malhi. He said police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men.
Malhi said the situation was under control and officers were investigating the allegations.
The incident brought back memories of one of the worst attacks on Christians in Pakistan in August 2023, when angry mobs burned churches and attacked dozens in Jaranwala, a district in Punjab province. Muslim residents claimed they saw a Christian and his friend tearing out pages from a Qur’an and throwing them on the ground. No one was killed. In 2009, six Christians were killed and some 60 homes burned down in the district of Gojra in Punjab following allegations of insults to Islam.
Malhi said police on Saturday dispersed the crowds and were also seeking help from religious scholars to defuse tensions. The Punjab government condemned the attack.
The man’s small shoemaking factory was also burned down, Malhi said.
Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan.
Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While no one has been executed for blasphemy, often just an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.


More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January

Updated 25 May 2024
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More than 10,000 people reach UK on small boats since January

  • The latest numbers on a government website showed 10,170 arrived between January and May 25
  • The plan has been bogged down by legal obstacles for more than two years

LONDON: More than 10,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Britain in small boats so far this year, updated government data showed on Saturday, underlining a key challenge facing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 national election.
The number of people landing on England’s southern beaches after making the dangerous Channel crossing fell by a third in 2023, but the latest numbers on a government website showed 10,170 arrived between January and May 25, up from 7,395 over the same period last year.
Sunak, who announced the election date on Wednesday, said later this week that asylum seekers who come to Britain illegally would not be deported to Rwanda before the vote — casting doubt on one of his Conservative Party’s flagship policies.
The plan has been bogged down by legal obstacles for more than two years, and the opposition Labour Party, which is about 20 points ahead in opinion polls and seen on track to end 14 years of Conservative rule, has promised to scrap the policy if it wins the election.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said Sunak’s government had not done enough to tackle the issue.
“Because all the government’s efforts are now focused on getting a few hundred people flown to Rwanda, they have lost sight of the thousands more who are crossing the Channel every month,” Kinnock said in a statement.
Labour has said if elected it would create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.


Supporters, opponents of Tehran clash in London

Updated 25 May 2024
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Supporters, opponents of Tehran clash in London

  • Event to mark death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi descends into violence
  • 4 injured, 1 arrested: Metropolitan Police

LONDON: Clashes in London between supporters and opponents of Iran’s government on Friday left four people with injuries, Sky News reported on Saturday.

One person was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder following the clashes.

Metropolitan Police officers were called to the scene at about 6 p.m. following reports of violence.

Pro-Tehran demonstrators had held an event to mark the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last week.

Outside the venue, anti-Tehran protesters held a counter-demonstration, and clashes broke out between the two sides.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said four people were treated by paramedics for injuries. “Their injuries are not believed to be either life threatening or life changing,” the spokesperson added.

“Further inquiries will now follow to establish what further offences took place and to identify those involved.”