UK Supreme Court Dismisses Proposal to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda

London — The UK Supreme Court has declared the UK government’s policy of sending certain asylum seekers to Rwanda illegal.

The Court ruled that there was a chance that any asylum applicant brought there would be sent back home, in violation of both UK and international human rights legislation. It also mentioned Rwanda’s history of mistreating refugees and its dismal record on human rights as reasons for its decision.

Announced in April 2022, the five-year pilot called for sending certain asylum seekers to Rwanda in order to file claims for protection there. They may have been awarded refugee status under the proposal, allowing them to remain in Rwanda. If not, they may have requested refuge in a different “safe third country” or applied to live there under other circumstances.

At this point, no one was relocated to Rwanda as an asylum seeker. A legal challenge forced the cancellation of the maiden flight, which was originally planned for June 2022.

The strategy, according to the government, will discourage individuals from entering the UK via “illegal, dangerous, or unnecessary methods,” such as travelling across the English Channel in tiny boats. In 2022, more than 45,700 travellers arrived in the UK using this route – the largest number since statistics were kept.

The number of asylum seekers who could have been sent to Rwanda remained unclear. However, prior to January 1, 2022, the government said that “anyone entering the UK illegally” may be sent, with no cap on the numbers. As per the agreement, Rwanda has the option to request that the UK accept some of its most vulnerable refugees.

Although the UK has already given the Rwandan government £140 million (approximately U.S.$174 million), the total cost of the programme has not been disclosed. According to an economic impact study done for the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, it would cost £63,000 (approximately U.S.$73,000) more to remove each person to a third country, like Rwanda, than to keep them in the UK.

The case was being heard against the backdrop of the public immigration debate in Britain, which had a role in the country’s 2016 referendum vote to exit the European Union. More than 25,000 individuals have entered Britain illegally on tiny boats this year, surpassing the record 45,755 that were found in 2022. Sunak listed “stop the boats” as one of his five key goals in an effort to turn around his party’s prospects. As of now, his Conservatives are behind in surveys by roughly 20 points, ahead of an election that is anticipated to take place in 2024.

In April 2022, then-prime minister Boris Johnson announced the Rwanda plan, which aimed to discourage asylum seekers from taking the perilous trek from Europe across the Channel. In a report released on Tuesday, November 14, 2023 Human Rights Watch said Rwanda had demonstrated “contempt for human rights norms” and urged Britain to cancel its plan.


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