By Editor-June 29th, 2023.
A British court has ruled that the government’s controversial plan to deport some asylum seekers who enter Britain illegally to Rwanda is unlawful as the African nation cannot be considered a safe third country that can competent consider applications for asylum.
In a major setback for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has pledged to deter people from arriving across the Channel in small boats, three Court of Appeal judges on Thursday said the “removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda” would be “unlawful”.
“The deficiencies in the asylum system in Rwanda are such that there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that persons sent to Rwanda will be returned to their home countries where they face persecution or other inhumane treatment,” Judge Ian Burnett said, but added that he, himself, disagreed with the other two judges on this point.
The United Kingdom government has been planning to deport asylum seekers to the East African country as part of a 120 million pound ($148m) deal to deter people from crossing the English Channel from France in small boats.
Asylum Aid director Alison Pickup said many of her clients were breathing a sigh of relief.
“Some of them have experienced torture, they’ve had very traumatic journeys, and have been waiting for over a year to find out if they will be able to make a case in the UK – or if they will be sent to Rwanda, a country they know nothing about,” Pickup told Al Jazeera.
She added that the ruling will “hopefully give them that reassurance of safety”.
The government has said it will appeal against the decision.
The Rwandan government said that while the matter was one for the British courts, it took exception to the judges’ conclusions.
“Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world and we have been recognised by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees,” said government spokesperson Yolande Makolo.
The Rwanda plan was announced in April last year, but the first deportation flight was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which imposed an injunction preventing any deportations until the conclusion of legal action in Britain.
In December, the High Court ruled the policy was lawful, but that decision was challenged by asylum seekers from several countries, along with human rights organisations, who blasted the plan as “cruel”, “inhumane” and “neo-colonial”.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman in April said Rwanda was a safe country for the resettlement of asylum seekers but declined to set any deadline for the first deportations there.
The government has put forward a series of bills aimed at curbing migration that have been strongly criticised by civil society.
Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, news agencies.