A British court on Thursday declared “illegal”, on appeal, the controversial plan to deport migrants who arrived illegally in the UK to Rwanda. A stark rejection of a flagship Conservative government measure aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
Could the Conservative government’s plan to outsource asylum applications be in the dark? In any case, it is a new setback for the British executive: Justice declared on Thursday, June 29, the controversial project to deport migrants who arrived illegally in the United Kingdom to Rwanda. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak immediately announced that he wanted to go to the Supreme Court.
This project, already delayed by European justice, is one of the flagship measures of the conservative government, which has set itself as a priority to fight illegal immigration in the country and especially arrivals of the English Channel on board small boats.
The Court of Appeal held that Rwanda as it stands cannot be considered a “safe third country” because there is “a real risk that persons sent to Rwanda will be returned to their country of origin where they were subjected to persecution and other inhumane treatment “.
Any deportation to Rwanda would constitute a “violation” of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that “no one shall be subjected to injury or torture”, the appeals court ruled.
“Unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum process are addressed, it will be unlawful to send asylum seekers to Rwanda,” the court concluded in a summary of the judgment.
“Rwanda is a safe country”
But the government has no intention of dropping this project, which was presented when Boris Johnson was prime minister. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he “fundamentally disagrees” with the decision and announced his government would seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“This government’s policy is very simple, it is this country and your government that should decide who comes here, not the gangs of evildoers,” he said in a statement, saying he would “do whatever it takes” to to implement it. . “Rwanda is a safe country,” he insisted.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a hardliner on immigration, also said she was “determined to succeed”. “I will not back down,” she assured.
Despite Brexit promises to “take back control” of borders, more than 45,000 migrants crossed the Channel from France in small boats in 2022, a record. And they are more than 11,000 this year who have done the same.
In 2021, 27 people lost their lives trying to cross this strait, one of the busiest in the world. At least four others died last year.
Despite this decision, Rwanda “remains fully committed to making this partnership” with the United Kingdom “work,” Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told AFP.
“Although this decision is ultimately up to the UK courts, we dispute the fact that Rwanda is not considered a safe country for refugees and asylum seekers,” she added.
In terms of human rights, however, Rwanda is regularly singled out for its harsh repression of political opposition and its lack of respect for freedom of expression.
No postponement has yet taken place
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “welcomed” the appeal court’s decision in a statement, reiterating its “concerns about the outsourcing of (the country’s) asylum obligations”.
The director of the NGO Human Rights Watch in the country, Yasmine Ahmed, hailed “rare good news in the grim landscape of human rights in Britain”, urging Home Secretary Suella Braverman to “abandon this dream feverishly, impractically and unethically”.
“Instead of treating people as cargo to be shipped elsewhere, (the government) should (…) end the hostile environment towards refugees and asylum seekers.”
Last December, the High Court in London gave the green light to the deportation of certain illegal migrants to Rwanda. But the judges had accepted that several applicants and the Charity Aid association, which provides legal support to asylum seekers and condemned an “unfair” project and the risk of persecution of expelled asylum seekers, were investigated in Rwanda.
No postponement has yet taken place. A first flight scheduled for June 2022 had been canceled following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).