Supreme Court Declares Rwanda Asylum Policy Unlawful: What This Means for Asylum Seekers

Unfortunately, this embedded content is not available in your region. This pertains to the government’s Rwanda asylum policy, which has had the UK’s highest court rule it as unlawful. The policy, put forth by the government to combat small boats, is now in a state of disarray after the Supreme Court agreed with a ruling by the Court of Appeal that stated the policy could expose people taken to Rwanda to human rights violations. As a result, the policy as it stands cannot be put into effect. Rishi Sunak, addressing MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions stated that he is willing to work on a new treaty with Rwanda and is open to amending UK laws to address this issue.

The proposal to transport asylum seekers to Rwanda and prevent them from returning to the UK has been met with numerous legal obstacles since it was announced by Boris Johnson in April 2022. Despite a considerable investment in the scheme, its implementation has been stalled due to legal challenges, which ultimately led to the Supreme Court deeming it impractical without significant revisions. This has prompted the government to explore the option of establishing a formal treaty with Rwanda to address the court’s concerns.

Emerging attempts to push against the policy show that a number of claimants oppose the scheme and argue that the asylum system in Rwanda is inadequate and arbitrary. This entire legal dispute revolves around the principle of “non-refoulement”, protecting individuals seeking asylum from being sent back to their home country if it potentially puts them in harm’s way, a principle established in UK and international human rights law.

Although the Supreme Court’s decision does not outright ban deporting migrants, it does leave the Rwanda policy in limbo. It is uncertain whether other countries would be willing to make a similar deal with the UK as the justices have substantial doubts about Rwanda’s ability to effectively fulfill assurances, questioning the country’s asylum system.

Amid the political ramification of these events, the UK government is under pressure to come up with an alternative to the Rwanda policy in light of the contradictions it has faced in the court. The dismissal of Suella Braverman on Monday, a vocal supporter of the Rwanda policy, further deepens this issue. The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, has affirmed the government’s commitment to address the court’s demands by amending the agreement to a treaty consistent with international law.


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