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UK may quit European Court of Human Rights – PM

Rishi Sunak has cited the importance of border security and controlling illegal migration as reasons to leave

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak threatened on Wednesday to abandon the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if it tries to block the UK’s efforts to fight illegal migration by sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda for processing.

In an interview with The Sun, Sunak said border control and state security should take precedence over the UK’s 71-year adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights, which the court enforces.

“I believe that border security and controlling illegal migration is more important than our membership of any foreign court,” Sunak said, adding that it was “fundamental to our sovereignty as a country” and that he may make it an election pledge later this year.

The UK has been struggling against the flow of illegal migration for years with successive Conservative prime ministers pledging crackdowns to address the issue. The country’s exit from the EU in 2016 was partly attributed to a desire to regain control of the nation’s borders.

“I come from a family of immigrants – and I think this will always be a welcoming, compassionate country – but that has to be done fairly, it has to be done legally,” the prime minister said. “We are a people who wait their turn, pay their fair share, play by the rules, and this offends every one of those notions. That’s why it’s so important that we grip it.”

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In April 2022, London reached an agreement with Rwanda, located in Central Africa, for illegal migrants to be sent there, but in June of the same year the first flight was canceled by decision of the ECHR.

Later that year, Dominic Raab, then deputy prime minister, introduced legislation that would make the Supreme Court in London the final arbiter on human rights issues and allow the UK to ignore decisions by the ECHR. London and Kigali later extended the deal, applying it to those who entered the country by crossing the English Channel by boat, and cannot be sent back to their country of origin.

In February, however, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk warned that the British government’s draft legislation declaring Rwanda a safe country in which to resettle asylum seekers violates principles of the rule of law.

The UK is one of the founding members of the ECHR, becoming the first country to ratify the convention back in 1951.


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