In a significant ruling, the British Supreme Court has declared the UK government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as unlawful. The court has determined that this scheme would put these individuals at risk of ill-treatment, as they could potentially be sent back to their home countries once in Rwanda.
The judgement, delivered unanimously by the country’s highest court, deals a major blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s hardline immigration policy. Sunak had made promises to crack down on illegal migration across the English Channel, and this ruling presents a setback as he prepares for next year’s election.
Upon learning of the court’s decision, Sunak expressed disappointment but reiterated the government’s commitment to stopping illegal migration. “We have seen today’s judgment and will now consider next steps,” he stated. While the government had been planning for all eventualities, this outcome was not the one they had hoped for.
The ruling not only disappointed Downing Street, but it also drew criticism from Rwanda. The Rwandan government spokesperson took issue with the court’s judgement, proclaiming that Rwanda is indeed a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees.
The controversial “Plan B” that had been put forth involved sending migrants who arrive in the UK by crossing the English Channel to Rwanda. Once there, their asylum claims would be processed, and if successful, they would be allowed to stay. However, due to ongoing legal challenges, no individuals have been sent to Rwanda under this plan.
The Supreme Court’s involvement originated from a government appeal against a previous court ruling. The first planned deportation flight in June 2022 was blocked by a last-minute injunction from the European Court of Human Rights, thereby halting any removals until the conclusion of the legal action in the UK.
This scheme has been central to Sunak’s immigration policy, as he aimed to prevent migrants from arriving by boat without permission on the south coast of Britain. Compared to other European countries such as Germany, France, and Italy, the UK receives fewer asylum seekers. Nonetheless, thousands of migrants from around the world travel to northern France each year in hopes of making the perilous journey across the English Channel.
In the current year, over 27,300 migrants have crossed the Channel, and the total is expected to be lower than the 46,000 who made the journey in 2022. The numbers highlight the ongoing challenges faced by the UK in managing illegal migration.
Following her dismissal as home secretary, Suella Braverman leveled strong criticism at Sunak, claiming that he had failed to develop a credible “plan B” in case the deportation scheme to Rwanda faced legal setbacks. Government officials, however, affirm that alternative options exist, such as renegotiating the agreement with Rwanda, upgrading it from a memorandum of understanding, and implementing additional safeguards.
Overall, the ruling by the Supreme Court has effectively rendered the UK government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda unlawful. While this is undoubtedly a setback for the government’s immigration policy, it remains to be seen how they will proceed in addressing the ongoing challenges associated with illegal migration.