UK plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda illegal, Supreme Court says | ET REALITY

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Britain’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is illegal, dealing a blow to the Conservative government, which has long described the plan as fundamental to its commitment to stopping small arrivals. boats.

Judge Robert Reed, one of five judges who heard the case, said the court supported an earlier Court of Appeals decision declaring the policy illegal, saying simply: “We agree with your conclusion.”

Judge Reed noted the risk of “refoulement” if asylum seekers were given a hearing in Rwanda, which would mean that genuine refugees could be returned to their countries of origin and face possible violence, in violation of both domestic and international law. international right.

The judge cautioned that while adequate protections may be put in place in the future, “they have not been shown to be in place now.”

The ruling is the latest setback for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after a turbulent few days in which he sacked his disruptive Home Secretary Suella Braverman, whose remit included overseeing immigration, and brought back a centrist predecessor to government. , David Cameron.

The hardline policy for Rwanda was first announced in April 2022 by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he attempted to fulfill a Brexit campaign promise to “take back control” of the country’s borders. Sunak promised to pursue this policy in his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party and championed the initiative alongside Braverman, one of his most outspoken supporters.

But from the beginning it was widely criticized by human rights groups and opposition politicians, with many pointing to Rwanda’s troubled human rights record.

has done it since been chased by Johnson’s successors Liz Truss and Sunak, each repeating their original unproven argument that the threat of deportation to Rwanda would deter the tens of thousands of people who try to cross the English Channel in small boats each year .

To date, no one has been sent to the small East African nation due to a series of legal challenges.

The first flight to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda was scheduled for June 14, 2022, but was suspended due to a provisional ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which said that an Iraqi should not be deported until he had completed its judicial review. completed in Great Britain. As a signatory of European Convention on Human Rights, an international agreement that Britain helped draft after World War II, the country accepts rulings from the Strasbourg court. (Both the court and the Convention are completely separate from the European Union).

Last December, Britain’s High Court ruled in favor of the government, determining that Rwanda’s plan was legal in principle and consistent with legal obligations, including those imposed by Parliament with the 1998 Human Rights Act.

But in June, the Court of Appeal ruled that Rwanda was not a safe third country and that there was a real risk of asylum seekers being returned to countries where they faced persecution or other inhuman treatment, even if they had a good asylum claim. asylum. That would represent a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the court said. This is the sentence that was confirmed.

The case reached Britain’s Supreme Court last month when five judges heard arguments from the government and opponents of the plan over three days. Judge Reed said the sentence had been accelerated because of its public importance.

At the hearing, Raza Husain, a lawyer representing 10 asylum seekers from various conflict zones, argued that Rwanda’s asylum system was “woefully deficient and marked by grave injustice.”

James Eadie, representing the government, argued that while Rwanda was “less attractive” than Britain, it was “never safe” for asylum seekers, pointing to guarantees given in the agreement between the two countries.

Angus McCullough, a lawyer for the United Nations Refugee Agency, told the judges that it “stands by its unequivocal warning against the transfer of asylum seekers to Rwanda under the agreement between the United Kingdom and Rwanda.” the guardian reported. He cited evidence that a similar policy pursued by Israel had caused some asylum seekers to disappear after their arrival in Rwanda.

The ruling comes at a time of intense political turmoil in the Conservative Party, which has been in power for 13 years and is trailing in the polls.

Braverman was fired Monday after sparking a political firestorm over comments that homelessness was a “lifestyle choice.” She also criticized the police over a pro-Palestinian march in London. She will now rely on her successor, James Cleverly, to oversee the response to the Supreme Court’s decision, just two days after her appointment.

Braverman had been a strong supporter of the deportation plan, and once said her “dream” was to see asylum seekers sent to Rwanda. She has also argued that Britain should be prepared to reform or even abandon the European Convention on Human Rights. in a denigrating letter She accused Mr Sunak on Tuesday of betraying a private promise to use legislation to overturn the convention, the Human Rights Act and other international laws which she said had “until now obstructed progress” to stop the boats.

Hours after his dismissal on Monday, Robert Jenrick, Britain’s immigration minister, appeared to signal that the government would not simply accept a Supreme Court decision to overturn the policy. “We have to make sure Rwanda’s politics are successful before the next general elections,” he said. The Telegraph. “No ifs or buts, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.”

Rashmin Sagoo, director of the international law program at Chatham House, a British think tank, said that withdrawing from the European Convention, while still a fringe idea, “will still be the ball to play,” particularly before a Supreme Court. ruling against the government.

“In my analysis, it’s a really strange and unconvincing proposal,” he said. “But it has really serious implications that require deep scrutiny.”

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