UK’s Rwanda deportation plan ‘unlawful,’ court of appeal rules


The UK government’s plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda is unlawful, the Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday, June 29, in a major blow to ministers’ controversial immigration policies that have been roundly condemned by humanitarian bodies.

In a three-judge decision, the court overturned a high court decision that previously ruled that Rwanda could be considered a safe third country in which to send refugees. “By a majority, this court allows the appeal on the issue of whether Rwanda is a safe third country. It unanimously dismisses the other grounds,” the ruling states. The British Home Office can now appeal to the Supreme Court.

Under the scheme proposed by the Conservative government, asylum-seekers deemed to have arrived in the UK illegally would be deported to the African nation. The judgment summary said sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda would breach the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

But the statement added that the court’s decision “implies no view whatever about the political merits or otherwise of the Rwanda policy.” British Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been a key proponent of the scheme, in a bid to crack down on undocumented migrants entering the UK. The government said the program is aimed at blocking people-smuggling networks and preventing migrants from making the treacherous sea journey across the Channel to England from France.

The home secretary is part of a legacy of pro-Brexit politicians who say it is necessary for Britain to “take control” of its borders. She has drawn criticism for couching her agenda in flagrant rhetoric, previously railing against what she calls an “invasion” of migrants.

Human rights campaigners welcomed the ruling on Thursday, June 29 having slammed the Rwanda policy as unethical and ineffective. “This is a HUGE win. The UK wants hope not hostility,” tweeted Together with Refugees, a coalition of charities promoting asylum-seekers’ rights.

The number of undocumented people entering Europe has spiraled this year due to conflict, global inequality and the climate crisis, exacerbating a migrant crisis across the continent. More than 36,000 people crossed the Mediterranean from January to March this year, nearly twice the number in the same period in 2022, according to figures from the UN’s refugee agency.

Not a ‘safe third country’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made controlling migration a central plank of his program for government. He has promised to stop small boats carrying refugees from France to the UK, numbers of which have risen dramatically this year.

There were 45,755 people detected arriving in Britain small boats in 2022, according to the UK government. The total in 2022 was 60% higher than in 2021. Although the judgment on Thursday does not call the policy illegal, so much money has already been given to the Rwandan government that being unable to send migrants there is a huge political embarrassment for Sunak and his cabinet. The UK has paid the Rwandan government £140 million ($177 million) for the proposal, the BBC reported.

“There is a real risk that persons sent to Rwanda will be returned to their home countries where they face persecution or other inhumane treatment when, in fact, they have a good claim for asylum,” the judgment said. Enver Solomon, CEO of the charity Refugee Council, told CNN campaigners were “disappointed” legal actors “have not concluded that the overall policy is unlawful.”

The Rwandan government said it does “take issue” with the ruling on Thursday, adding that Rwanda “is one of the safest countries in the world.” However, there is a way in which this ruling could help the Conservative Party. Sunak was not elected on his own mandate by the public at a general election, but given the job by his own MPs. British politicians have a track record of using rows with courts and pan-European bodies as campaign wedge issues.

Given the Conservative’s current poor poll ratings and the need for Sunak to lock in his vote on the right, it is plausible that he could use this decision as a major launching pad for his next election manifesto and even to put forward proposals for leaving the European Court of Human Rights. “I strongly believe the Rwandan government has provided the assurances necessary to ensure there is no real risk that asylum-seekers relocated under the Rwanda policy would be wrongly returned to third countries – something that the Lord Chief Justice agrees with,” Sunak said of the ruling on Thursday.

“Rwanda is a safe country. The High Court agreed. The UNHCR have their own refugee scheme for Libyan refugees in Rwanda. We will now seek permission to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.”


Posted by on Jul 13 2023. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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