Today, the Court of Appeal ruled that transferring asylum seekers to Rwanda is not legal. It’s high time the goverment ends all plans to forcibly transfer people seeking asylum to Rwanda
Sarah Teather, JRS UK’s Director, said: “Plans to forcibly send men, women and children seeking sanctuary here to Rwanda are inhuman. They are also completely impractical. They are destructive, and mean slamming the door shut on refugees, denying our duty to offer refugees sanctuary. We welcome this judgement as we continue to resist this cruel policy in solidarity with refugees.“
In April 2022, the government announced plans to forcibly and permanently send some people who seek asylum in the UK to Rwanda, under a Migration and Economic Development Partnership between the UK and Rwandan governments. As part of the plan, the Rwandan government will then have responsibility for their asylum claims. It will process their claims and, crucially, if they are recognised as refugees, they will stay in Rwanda.
A flight was scheduled to take people to Rwanda on 14th June 2022. Several attempts to stop it in UK courts had failed, but the European Court of Human Rights stopped the flight not on the basis that the scheme was illegal, but on the basis that ongoing cases in the UK courts must be played out before the flight could take place, as the outcome of these cases may have implications for the legality of the flight. On 19th December 2022, the High Court issued its ruling in one key case, and declared that the scheme was legal, but it did, in January, grant a right of appeal on key aspects of the case. Today, on a majority decision, the Court of appeal reversed the High Court’s judgement, ruling that the Rwanda scheme was illegal, on the basis that it did not ensure that asylum claims would be fairly processed, and therefore also did not ensure that people would be protected from removal into danger.
The scheme has been very widely criticised as carrying a high risk of human rights abuses, abrogating the UK’s responsibilities to refugees, and being both costly and ineffective. Government analysis published last week estimated the scheme would cost £169,000 per refugee, on top of the £120 million already paid to Rwanda. Though the government estimated cost-savings from not accommodating people in the UK, their estimates here appear to be hugely optimistic, and assume that refugees would be in asylum accommodation indefinitely, rather than having their claims processed promptly and entering the workforce. Furthermore, though the scheme is ostensibly intended to act as a deterrent to irregular entry to the UK, the government’s analysis admits “The academic consensus is that there is little to no evidence suggesting changes in a destination country’s policies have an impact on deterring people from leaving their countries of origin or travelling without valid permission, whether in search of refuge or for other reasons.”
The Illegal Migration Bill currently before parliament would render the majority of asylum claims inadmissible and place a duty on the Home Secretary to remove those whose claims are inadmissible. The government has stated that the Memorandum of Understanding with Rwanda is part of what will enable them to do this, but experts are dubious about the possibility of deploying the scheme at scale. The court judgement further exposes the government’s plans as based on a fiction.