Press Review CW 50/2023: Heated debates
Press Review 8 December 2023 to 15 December 2023

British House of Commons votes in favour of Migration Bill on deportations to Rwanda

On Tuesday, the British House of Commons voted 313 to 269 in a second reading for the controversial migration law, which is supposed to allow deportations from Britain to Rwanda and declares Rwanda a safe third country. Under an emergency law put forward by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the British Government is to be allowed to deport asylum seekers who have entered Britain illegally to Rwanda – without examining an application for asylum in Britain and regardless of their origin. This hastily introduced bill is based on the asylum agreement signed by British Home Secretary James Cleverly and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta on 5 December, which replaces the Memorandum of Understanding of April 2022 on which the two countries’ previous asylum agreement was based and is intended to address the concerns of the UK Supreme Court. In November, the Supreme Court declared the previous asylum pact between the UK and Rwanda to be unlawful, as it violated the European Human Rights Conventions signed by the UK, among other things. The court argued that there was no guarantee that the Rwandan government would respect the principle of non-refoulement under international law. There was an acute risk that the deported asylum seekers could be sent back from Rwanda to their countries of origin, where they might face repression. In addition, concerns were raised about the human rights situation in Rwanda and the treatment of refugees in the East African country to date. The British government is now seeking to circumvent this judgement with the current bill, which declares Rwanda a safe third country and seeks to guarantee that people sent to Rwanda to apply for asylum are not at risk of deportation. In order to guarantee this in practice, the Rwandan-British asylum agreement provides, among other things, for the establishment of an independent committee to ensure that Rwanda fulfils its obligations. The UK is also to pay for the costs of a new Rwandan-British court of appeal as well as the accommodation and living costs of people who have been resettled in Rwanda for up to five years. So far, the migration agreement, which has been enforced since 2022, has cost the British government 140 million pounds; on 7 December, the Home Office confirmed the payment of a further 100 million pounds this year, with additional costs of 50 million pounds expected next year. Meanwhile, despite the narrow approval of the House of Commons on Tuesday, it is not certain that the draft Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, which is intended to legitimise the agreement, will ultimately be passed. Amendments to the law can still be made during the mandatory third reading of the bill. Several arch-conservative members of the governing Conservative and Unionist Party (Tories) have already threatened to reject the current draft if proposed amendments regarding further restrictive immigration provisions are not accepted. Moderate Tory members, on the other hand, raised concerns about further amendments to the law due to compliance with humanitarian standards. The bill would also still have to go through various readings in the second chamber of the British parliament, the House of Lords. In addition, the current opposition Labour Party, which is currently at the forefront of electoral projections for 2024, has already announced the repeal of the law if they would put in place the new government.


African positions at the UN Climate Change Conference COP28

The UN Climate Change Conference COP28 came to an end on Wednesday after more than 14 days. The annual summit, which was attended by delegates from 197 countries this year, took place in Dubai from 30 November to 13 December under the chairmanship of Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber. The main topics of the meeting included the global stocktake of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement as well as the negotiation of support measures for countries of the Global South in climate protection and the necessary adaptation measures. The final agreement was signed on Wednesday and is intended to pave the way for a move away from fossil fuels for the first time. While the agreement was initially heavily criticised by the EU, among others, for its lack of commitment to phasing out fossil fuels, and was subsequently revised, the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change (AGN), chaired by Zambian Environment Minister Collins Nzovu, was largely satisfied with the results of the summit. In particular, the commitment to double the financing for climate change adaptation in countries of the Global South by 2025 and to increase it to between 215 and 387 billion dollars per year by 2030 was welcomed. The implementation of the Loss and Damage Fund, which had already been agreed at COP27, on the first day of the conference was also viewed favourably (press review CW 45/2022). This is intended to provide financial support for adaptation measures in favour of climate protection to countries in the Global South that are particularly affected by the effects of climate change. At the end of the summit, the fund received pledges totalling around 792 million US dollars. However, several delegations criticised the fact that the fund was to be managed by the World Bank for four years and feared that it would favour financial contributions for its members. The sometimes vague framework conditions were also criticised: Which countries should have access to the newly established fund and which payment obligations would have to be entered into remained open. The decision to move away from fossil fuels was also regarded as a mere compromise by several African negotiators. The Africa Group regretted that the final text of the agreement made no explicit reference to binding offers of support for African countries in relation to the move away from fossil fuels. Previously, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Nigerian government had explicitly blocked the call for a phase-out of fossil fuels and referred to the dependence of several African economies on fossil fuels. Beyond the main COP negotiations, several bilateral and multilateral agreements focussing on Africa were nevertheless concluded, with the “Africa Day” on the second day of negotiations being particularly important. This included the signing of the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) energy agreement between Germany and Nigeria to increase Nigerian energy production and the pledge of 175 million US dollars for the Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa (AGIA) by the German, French and Japanese governments. Rwanda, for example, signed memoranda of understanding with Singapore and Kuwait to cooperate in the development of the Rwandan carbon market and Kenya secured 4.47 billion US dollars in investments in green projects for power generation, fertiliser production and digitalisation. The united voice of the Africa Group at COP28, which is based on the Nairobi Declaration adopted at the first African Climate Summit in 2022 under the leadership of Kenyan President William Ruto, is also considered a success (press review CW 36/2023). Although the African continent is only responsible for four per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change. By 2030, the continent will have to rely on over 2.8 trillion US dollars to cover the costs of adapting to climate change. The united appearance of African states at COP28 and the joint demands are therefore an important step towards demanding African interests and a just energy transition as well as enabling financial support.


In other News

On Sunday, Tanzanian lawyer Joseph Moses Oleshangay was awarded the Weimar Human Rights Prize. He was honored for his tireless efforts to improve the human rights situation in Tanzania and for his commitment to the Maasai minority living there. In his home country, the East African ethnic group is confronted with oppression by the government and violent expulsion from two nature reserves in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Loliondo, in the north of the country. The award winner is himself a Maasai and has been a victim of state repression on several occasions. The ceremony took place under the patronage of journalist and news presenter Gundula Gause. The Weimar Human Rights Prize is awarded every year on December 10, International Human Rights Day. The prize is endowed with 5,000 euros.

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