Dehumanising and immoral: Humanists UK condemns Rwanda Bill

12 December, 2023

Photo credit: Rishi Sunak Official Cabinet Portrait, September 2021 Wikipedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Humanists UK expressed alarm over the proposed Rwanda Bill put forward by the UK Government.

The Bill seeks to establish legislation governing the deportation process of asylum seekers to Rwanda. Humanists UK, a leading advocate for the abolition of blasphemy laws globally, highlighted that the expression of fundamental humanist principles related to democracy, freedom, and human rights are significantly curtailed in Rwanda, and that ‘blasphemy’ is a crime punishable by imprisonment there. In no way is it a ‘safe’ country for non-religious asylum seekers, said Humanists UK.

The emergency Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill was officially released last week and is scheduled for discussion during the Second Reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday. This development comes in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s verdict on November 15, deeming the initially proposed Rwanda asylum policy as unlawful due to its potential to expose individuals to human rights violations. Subsequently, the UK Government revealed a treaty with Rwanda aimed at resurrecting the contentious plan.

The legislation asserts Rwanda as a ‘safe country’ in response to the Supreme Court ruling. This designation is made notwithstanding Rwanda’s retention of blasphemy laws, where individuals accused of blasphemy can potentially face imprisonment and/or fines. This raises concerns about the potential adverse effects on non-religious asylum seekers, as well as other religious minorities, if deported to Rwanda.

Beyond this, Humanists UK is deeply concerned about the wider human rights impact of the legislation. The Bill disapplies some protections of the Human Rights Act for asylum seekers and any interpretation of international law by the court or tribunal. The Home Secretary himself concedes that he is unable to make a statement that the Bill is compatible with the rights detailed in the European Convention on Human Rights.

In 2022 members of Humanists UK called at their Annual General Meeting that the policy of deporting asylum claimants to Rwanda to be brought to an end, calling the policy ‘dehumanising and immoral’.

The full motion adopted by the General Meeting reads:

‘From our work supporting humanist asylum seekers, persecuted because of their beliefs, we know the extreme difficulties faced by refugees in the UK. In seeking safe haven abroad, they suffer arduous journeys, deplorable treatment, and harsh conditions. Throughout this hostile process, they suffer with the uncertainty of whether their cases will be fairly heard and properly processed.

The UK Government’s new policy of deporting refugees from the UK to Rwanda plainly makes their situation worse. For those asylum seekers we specialise in helping, who have already faced persecution on the basis of being non-religious, Rwanda represents an especially unsafe destination, and a potential site of further persecution and unfair handling of their claims. But the problem is broader than that.

This policy loses sight of refugees as human beings with human rights. Every human being has the right to life, the right to express themselves and to express their beliefs, the right to start a family and lead a normal life.

We want to see this dehumanising and immoral policy abolished and for refugees in the UK to have their claims for asylum assessed and resolved within the UK.’

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Kathy Riddick said:

‘We are deeply worried by the proposed emergency Rwanda legislation. How can Rwanda be classified a safe country when it maintains its blasphemy laws in contravention to the right to freedom of religion or belief?

‘It is important that the Government upholds its duty to respect and maintain its human rights obligations and we will continue campaigning to protect these rights for us all.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Kathy Riddick at or phone 020 3675 0959.

Read the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

Read the full motion from Humanists UK AGM in 2022

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.