Parliamentary hopefuls in Carlisle have shared their thoughts on a divisive policy to fly asylum seekers in the UK to Rwanda after a report found it to be ‘fundamentally incompatible’ with human rights.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bill was scrutinised by parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights which said the bill also jeopardises the UK’s reputation for respecting the rule of law.

Joanna Cherry, SNP chair of the cross-party committee, said: ”Hostility to human rights is at its heart and no amendments can salvage it,” and added that, among other safeguards, the policy would remove asylum seekers’ right to access a court.

News and Star: Joanna CherryJoanna Cherry

The committee’s report, released today (February 12), also said the bill contravened the European Convention on Human Rights.

Cherry added: “By taking this approach, the bill risks untold damage to the UK’s reputation as a proponent of human rights internationally.”

News and Star: Protestors standing against the policy in 2023Protestors standing against the policy in 2023

The bill, which has the support of Conservative MP for Carlisle John Stevenson, was introduced in late 2023 after the UK’s supreme court ruled that the government’s plan was unlawful, having judged that people removed to the capital Kigali were at risk of being sent to their home countries.

Julie Minns, the Carlisle Labour candidate, said it’s important to note the report is cross-party and not politically motivated, and shouldn’t be ignored.

News and Star: Julie MinnsJulie Minns (Image: Supplied)

“People want the government to get a grip on immigration, but instead, Rishi Sunak is too busy dreaming up eye-wateringly expensive gimmicks like barges and planes and placing bets with Piers Morgan,” she said, adding that the scheme wastes hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money and has proven faulty after the ‘loss’ of thousands of people planned to be sent to Rwanda.

“People want change, and Labour has a serious plan to smash the criminal gangs, fast-track decisions and returns, and clear the backlog,” Ms Minns concluded.

Gavin Hawkton, Carlisle’s candidate for the Green Party – which has shown continued vehement opposition to the bill since its progeny, further highlighted the ‘staggering £290million on a failed, inhumane scheme’.

News and Star: Gavin HawktonGavin Hawkton (Image: Supplied)

“There is a worrying trend towards the stoking of fear with our politicians twisting themselves into knots to outdo each other in cruelty towards refugees in response,” mr Hawkton said.

He added that this report highlights the UK’s ‘legal responsibilities towards other human beings’.

Brian Wernham, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Carlisle, who is a councillor for the Stanwix Urban ward on Cumberland Council in which the Cumbria Park hotel, which has been used by the Home Office to house asylum seekers, condemned the sitting MP’s support of the bill, and criticised Ms Minns’ ‘weak stance on this critical human rights issue’ as being ‘unacceptable’.

News and Star: Brian WernhamBrian Wernham (Image: Supplied)

He said Mr Stevenson’s support of the policy ‘contradicts the core principle of preventing removal to face persecution, torture, or death – a principle upheld by international law for over 70 years’.

He’s called for an immediate reassessment of the UK’s asylum and immigration policies and added that if he and his party were voted in, a ‘compassionate, lawful, and human rights-focussed approach to asylum and immigration’ would be delivered.

The Home Office said the bill, and its accompanying treaty, provided the ‘best way of getting flights off to Rwanda as soon as possible’, and: “Rwanda is clearly a safe country that cares deeply about supporting refugees”.

Mr Stevenson was approached for a comment.