In a story about the Rwanda bill, you refer to Rishi Sunak toughening up his rhetoric on “pyjama injunctions” (Sunak faces Tory meltdown as deputy chairs back Rwanda bill rebellionReport, 15 January), meaning interim measures issued by the European court of human rights in exceptional circumstances. We should be careful about buying into this characterisation, as it trivialises the court’s urgent and legally binding injunctions, which are issued – sometimes out of hours – to avert an imminent risk of irreparable harm, such as death or torture.
Both the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and the safety of Rwanda (asylum and immigration) bill give ministers discretion to disregard interim measures in cases relating to the removal of a person from the UK. Rightwing Tory MPs would like to go further and block interim measures entirely.
Doing so would risk irreparable harm to individuals seeking safety from torture and death in other countries. And not only that. If the UK cherrypicks which of the court’s measures it will abide by, this could encourage other, less rights-respecting states to follow suit.
In the same month (June 2022) that the court issued an injunction against the UK, preventing a person from being removed to Rwanda until UK courts had finally decided their case, two others were issued against Russia – to ensure that British prisoners of war who had fought with the Ukrainian army were not executed in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine. The men were later released.
Interim measures against the UK are rare: on average about two per year. Does the UK government really want to undermine this vital and longstanding mechanism for protection of human rights across 46 European states for the sake of achieving the theatre of a plane taking off to Rwanda?
Dr Alice Donald and Prof Philip Leach
School of law, Middlesex University, London
• The Rwanda soap opera continues with Polly Toynbee taking a very different view of the government’s aim (Sunak is praying for the Lords to block the Rwanda bill – so he can blame the left, 18 January). At some point in the future, historians will look back in bafflement at this government’s bizarre obsession with sending small numbers of alleged illegal immigrants at huge expense to a relatively small African country from which it is receiving its citizens fleeing from persecution.
Having spent 25 years working on pro-democracy projects across the world, including many in Africa and Asia, the idea that the Rwanda programme will act as a deterrent to those risking their lives to cross the Channel demonstrates a complete lack of awareness of the lives of these desperate individuals. They are certainly not in a position to read the Guardian or listen to Radio 4, or even to weigh up the odds of survival.
Former MP for Leeds West
• So Sunak’s Rwanda plan is “the will of the British people”. I rather doubt it, but if he had any bottle he’d test it by calling a general election now. The fact that he hasn’t speaks volumes.
• It is impossible to disagree that people traffickers are evil. But the Conservative policy appears to be: the perpetrators are evil, so let’s punish the victims.
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