The British government stuck to its decision to move forward with a controversial plan to send migrants to Rwanda, despite the British Supreme Court rejecting this plan, a ruling that human rights organizations welcomed and considered a “victory” and a “major defeat” for the ruling party.
The British government’s decision came shortly after the British Supreme Court issued, on Wednesday, November 15, a decision invalidating the government’s controversial plan to deport asylum seekers who entered the country illegally to Rwanda.
The five judges unanimously rejected the appeal submitted by the authorities, and affirmed the conclusions reached by the Court of Appeal, on June 29, regarding the illegality of this measure, which underpinned the conservative government’s policy to combat illegal immigration.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Reed confirmed that this decision was based on legal reasons and not political ones at all, according to the “InfoMigrants” website.
Despite the ruling, the British Prime Minister announced in a statement that London and Kigali affirmed, during a phone call, “their firm commitment to the success of their partnership in the field of immigration, and agreed to take the necessary measures to ensure that this policy is strong and legal.”
The UK’s plan to send asylum seekers who arrive illegally to Rwanda was announced a year and a half ago, under Boris Johnson’s government, but was never implemented.
In mid-2022, the first transfer to Rwanda was canceled at the last minute, following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. Then at the end of last June, the London Court of Appeal ruled that the project was “unlawful,” concluding that Rwanda could not be considered a “safe third country” in its current situation. The judges then assessed that there was a “real risk that persons sent to Rwanda would (subsequently) be returned to their countries of origin where they would be subjected to persecution and other inhuman treatment.”
This is the logic that the Supreme Court approved on Wednesday.
A few minutes after the ruling of the highest British court, the Rwandan government said through its spokesman that it “opposes the decision that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees.”
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Freedom from Torture expressed “a huge relief” after the ruling.
Commenting on the legal procedures, the UN agency considered that Rwanda does not have an “accessible, reliable, fair and effective asylum system,” and noted that it had “always expressed serious concerns” about this file.
The UNHCR reminded the President of the Supreme Court that Rwanda had rejected “100% of asylum requests” from countries in conflict zones such as Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, “even though the British authorities often consider that these requests are often justified.”
The expulsion plan in question by the British authorities is a symbol of its strict policy to confront irregular immigration. But other measures also raise concern for human rights defenders.
In July, Parliament passed a law prohibiting migrants who arrived in the United Kingdom illegally from seeking asylum, regardless of their reasons for fleeing their country. This law is considered in violation of international law, according to the United Nations.