UK Supreme Court Rules Rwanda Policy Unlawful

Hannah Laher

Trainee Solicitor

Earlier today, the UK Supreme Court ruled the decision to export Asylum Seekers to Rwanda as ‘Unlawful’.

Back in May 2022, a five-year trial was announced, which would’ve seen asylum seekers sent to Rwanda in order to claim asylum there.
Today, those plans were quashed.

We asked Trainee Solicitor Hannah Laher to provide some insight into the Rwanda case and the courts’ ruling:

This appeal concerned the Home Secretary’s policy to remove certain Asylum Seekers to Rwanda to have their claims decided by the Rwandan Government. These Asylum Seekers would then claim Asylum in Rwanda rather than the UK. The UK Government, however, has a responsibility to ensure all National and International laws are abided by in the process. Most notably, they are to ensure there is no risk of refoulement (i.e., the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution).

 The UK Government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Rwanda in April 2022. Although undertakings were made by Rwanda to ensure there was no risk of refoulement, the agreement was found to breach many aspects of National and International law as the Home Secretary failed to prove Asylum Seekers would not be at ‘risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulment’ upon their arrival in Rwanda.

 The Supreme Court compared the Memorandum of Understanding to a similar agreement entered by the Israeli Government and Rwanda between 2013 and 2018. It was found, although undertakings were made to ensure no Asylum Seekers were at risk of refoulement, once Asylum Seekers were removed from Israel and arrived in Rwanda, many were unable to seek asylum in Rwanda and were clandestinely removed to a neighbouring country. This meant Asylum Seekers were indirectly sent back to the country where they were subject to persecution, putting them at risk of real harm. This was later ruled unlawful by Israel’s Supreme Court in April 2018.

 The Home Secretary’s plans to follow suit would again put Asylum Seekers at real risk of ill treatment and harm. Rwanda’s previous failure to comply with non-refoulment agreements means the UK Government cannot be certain Asylum Seekers will have their claims considered safely and properly in Rwanda.

 Government Officials are now exploring further options to negotiate a new deal with Rwanda and to upgrade the agreement to include new safeguarding measures. This may just be a temporary blip in the government’s plans to ‘’stop the boats!’

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