Supreme Court says UK’s Rwanda asylum policy is unlawful

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The UK Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the government’s policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful, in a major blow to Rishi Sunak’s government.

Lord Robert Reed, president of the Supreme Court, said asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would be at real risk of being repatriated to their countries of origin without proper consideration of their claims.

“There are substantial grounds for believing that the removal of the claimants to Rwanda would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement,” the Supreme Court said in its judgment.

Refoulement is the forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries when they are likely to face persecution. Reed said the court had made the decision unanimously.

The agreement with Rwanda has been a showpiece policy of successive Conservative governments and is a central part of Sunak’s drive to “stop the boats” and crack down on irregular immigration.

Suella Braverman, who was sacked as home secretary by Sunak this week, is a key proponent of the Rwanda policy. Like other Conservative rightwingers, she has called for the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of an adverse Supreme Court ruling.

But Reed stressed the ECHR was not the only legal basis for the court’s decision, saying the UK was bound by other treaties and domestic law.

On the basis of evidence from the UN refugee agency, the court upheld an earlier decision by the court of appeal, which found that there were real risks that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda could be removed to their countries of origin. It said this was potentially in breach of the UN convention for refugees. 

“The changes needed to eliminate the risk of refoulement may be delivered in future, but they have not been shown to be in place now,” Reed said.  

This is a developing story

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