UK government policy to deport refugees to Rwanda ruled unlawful

UK government policy to deport refugees to Rwanda ruled unlawful

London, Nov 15 (PTI) The UK government on Wednesday lost a crucial legal challenge after the Supreme Court in London ruled that its policy to deport refugees to Rwanda while their application for asylum is processed is unlawful.

The country’s highest court agreed with a previous Court of Appeal decision to say that there are 'substantial grounds' to believe people deported to Rwanda could then be sent to places they would be unsafe by the Rwandan government.

It was one of the flagship policies championed by recently sacked home secretary Suella Braverman, who in a scathing pre-emptive letter had sought to lay the blame for such a ruling at the door of the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – claiming he had “failed to prepare any sort of credible Plan B” to tackle the issue of illegal migration.

Sunak admitted it was “not the outcome” the government wanted as part of his 'stop the boats' pledge but stressed that he had prepared for such an eventuality.

“We accept the Home Secretary’s submission that the Rwandan government entered into the agreement in good faith, and that the capacity of the Rwandan system to produce accurate and fair decisions can and will be built up,” notes the Supreme Court ruling.

“Nevertheless, asking ourselves whether there were substantial grounds for believing that a real risk of refoulment existed at the relevant time, we have concluded that there were. The changes needed to eliminate the risk of refoulement may be delivered in the future, but they have not been shown to be in place now. The Home Secretary’s appeal is therefore dismissed,” it concludes.

The appeal was lodged by the Braverman-led Home Office after a Court of Appeal decision similarly went against the government. It will now be her successor, Home Secretary James Cleverly, who will be responsible for formulating the government’s response and strategy going forward.

“We have seen today’s judgment and will now consider next steps. This was not the outcome we wanted, but we have spent the last few months planning for all eventualities and we remain completely committed to stopping the boats,” Sunak said in a statement.

“Crucially, the Supreme Court – like the Court of Appeal and the High Court before it – has confirmed that the principle of sending illegal migrants to a safe third country for processing is lawful. This confirms the government’s clear view from the outset. Illegal migration destroys lives and costs British taxpayers millions of pounds a year. We need to end it and we will do whatever it takes to do so,” he said.

The unanimous judgment was read out by Lord Robert Reed, President of the Supreme Court, which the Rwandan government has “taken issue with”.

'This is ultimately a decision for the UK's judicial system. However, we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees, in terms of refoulement,' a Rwandan government spokesperson said.

The deportation scheme as part of a GBP 140-million pact with Rwanda was initially launched by former home secretary Priti Patel and designed to see those arriving in the UK illegally, including via small boats across the English Channel, deported to the east African nation.

Refugee charities have consistently called the proposal 'inhumane' and claimed it breaks human rights laws, while Opposition parties have deemed the plan a 'gimmick'.

An injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stopped the first flight of deportees to Rwanda from taking off in June last year and the scheme has been embroiled in litigation ever since, which means no asylum seekers have yet been deported to the country under the policy. PTI AK SCY SCY

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