Campaigners and asylum seekers have won a Court of Appeal challenge over the government’s planned Rwanda deportation scheme.
Three judges overturned a High Court ruling that previously said Rwanda could be considered a “safe third country”.
The move makes deportations unlawful for the moment, however it’s anticipated the Government will try appealing the ruling at the Supreme Court.
Lawyers for the Home Office opposed the appeal, telling the court the Rwandan government has “indicated a clear willingness to co-operate with international monitoring mechanisms” and that there are “reciprocal obligations with strong incentives for compliance”.
Despite the policy being introduced in 2021, not a single migrant has been deported to the country yet despite the project costing around £120 million.
The court’s ruling deemed there to be flaws in Rwanda’s asylum process, including UN human rights conventions.
Due to a split among the judges, however, it makes it more certain the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Lord Burnett, who heard the appeal with Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill, said the court ruled by a majority that the policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful.
He told the court Sir Geoffrey and Lord Justice Underhill concluded that deficiencies in the asylum system in Rwanda mean there is a “real risk” asylum seekers could be returned to their home country and face persecution or other inhumane treatment when they may have a good claim for asylum.
He added the two judges found that: “In that sense, Rwanda is not a ‘safe third country’.”
The Lord Chief Justice said he reached the opposite conclusion to the other two judges and found that the procedures put in place under the Rwanda agreement, and the assurances given by the Rwandan government, are “sufficient to ensure that there is no real risk that asylum-seekers relocated under the Rwanda policy will be wrongly returned to countries where they face persecution or other inhumane treatment”.
He concluded that the chances of failed asylum seekers being returned to their country of origin are “low”, in part because Rwanda has no agreements in place with any of those countries.
Lord Burnett added: “In addition, extensive monitoring arrangements, formal and informal, of all those sent to Rwanda and their asylum claims once there provide powerful protection.
“The arrangements put in place provide sufficient safeguards in a context where both governments will be determined to make the agreement work and be seen to do so.”
While the outcome may look bad for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has made stopping illegal channel crossings by migrants a key plank of his Government’s ambitions, a row with left wing journalists may help the Government at the next election.
Blaming the courts and opposition parties for frustrating the Government’s progress will be a handy excuse if feelings about the number of migrants entering the country are still high when voters go to the polls.
Responding to the ruling, the Liberal Democrats said Home Secretary Suella Braverman “should now scrap her unlawful vanity project”
“Not only is the Conservatives’ Rwanda asylum plan immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers, but the Court of Appeal has also now said it is unlawful, too.
“It will do nothing to stop dangerous Channel crossings – and it runs roughshod over the UK’s legal obligations, as the courts have confirmed.”
The Home Office and No. 10 are yet to respond to the ruling.
Nigel Farage responded: “Court of Appeal rules against the Rwanda policy. The House of Lords and the judiciary will always do their best to assist illegal immigration”.
“France is a safe country, we should send people straight back there.”