UK Government’s Rwanda plans shot down in flames by the appeal court

In a sensational overturning of an earlier High Court ruling, which deemed that the Home Secretary’s centrepiece strategy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda was legal, the appeal court has this morning ruled the plans unsafe.

The High Court decision had accepted the government’s position that Rwanda was a safe third country. This decision was subsequently challenged by human rights organisations in concert with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, who provided a major part of the evidence to the appeal. The appeal panel arrived a majority decision that there are deficiencies in the Rwanda asylum programme – principally that:

‘there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that persons sent to Rwanda will be returned to their home countries where they faced persecution or other inhumane treatment, when in fact, they have a good claim for asylum’

‘Removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful’

The conclusion of the appeal court ruling made clear that:

‘unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum processes are corrected, removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful’

The UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak in response said that he fundamentally disagreed with the ruling and insisted that the government would be seeking permission to appeal the decision at the Supreme Court. He said that government should decide who comes to the UK, ‘not criminal gangs’ and he promised to ‘do whatever is necessary to make that happen’.

Home Secretary: ‘I remain fully committed to this policy as does the Rwandan government’

The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman issued a statement confirming that the government intends to appeal the judgement. She said:

‘The British people want to stop the boats, and so does this government, That’s what I am determined to deliver and I won’t take a backward step from that. We need innovative solutions to smash the business model of the people smuggling gangs, which is why we formed this partnership with Rwanda…I remain fully committed to this policy as does the Rwandan government’

Asylum seekers arrive aboard a Border Force Boat at Dover

‘Some rare good news in an otherwise bleak landscape for human rights in the UK’

The Refugee Council expressed its relief at the ruling, although was disappointed that the judgement did not conclude that the government’s overall policy is unlawful. The CEO of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon said:

‘Let’s remember that the UK made an international commitment under the Refugee Convention to provide a safe haven for those fleeing for their lives who seek protection on our soil.’

Yasmine Ahmed, the UK Director of Human Rights Watch, said that the verdict was:

‘Some rare good news in an otherwise bleak landscape for human rights in the UK…[the Home Secretary should] abandon this unworkable and unethical fever dream of a policy and focus her efforts on fixing our broken and neglected migration system’

The Executive Director of International Rescue Committee UK, Laura Kyrke-Smith, said:

‘By the government’s own assessment published earlier this week, there is no evidence that these expensive deterrence initiatives will achieve their aim of ‘stopping the boats. What will work will be to reduce dangerous journeys…is investing the money in our own asylum system and scaling up safe routes.’

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