On Wednesday, the UK Supreme Court dismissed a contentious government proposal to relocate migrants to Rwanda. Upholding a prior lower court decision, the highest court ruled the plan unlawful, dealing a significant blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The five-judge panel, aligning unanimously with the Court of Appeal judges, deemed the policy inconsistent with Britain’s commitments outlined in international treaties.
“We conclude that the Court of Appeal… was entitled to find that there are substantial grounds for believing that the removal of the claimants to Rwanda would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment,” they concluded
The judges concurred with the June ruling of the lower court, acknowledging that sending asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda posed the risk of forcibly returning them to a nation where they might encounter persecution, a situation referred to as refoulement.
“Having been taken through the evidence we agree with their conclusion,” they added in their 56-page ruling.
Sunak’s Conservative administration has maintained that the Rwanda plan is essential in curbing “illegal” immigration via small boats across the Channel—an issue expected to play a significant role in the upcoming general election.
However, the court’s decision marks the end of a storyline that commenced in April the previous year, when Britain struck a deal with Rwanda to transfer undocumented migrants to temporary facilities there. This outcome leaves the immigration agenda of the UK’s leader in disarray.
Furthermore, it is poised to widen divisions within the ruling Tory party between right-leaning lawmakers and those holding more moderate views.
Sunak expressed disappointment, stating that the ruling was “not the desired outcome.” He added that the government would now explore future steps, while officials in Kigali contest the judgment that Rwanda does not qualify as a safe third country.
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