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UK court rules that Rwanda is unsafe for deported migrants

The British court of Appeal has ruled that the government’s decision to deport migrants arriving in small boats across the Channel was illegal.

It also said Rwanda, the African country the British government signed a deal to send such asylum seekers was unsafe for them.

Thursday’s ruling is seen as a major setback for the government’s plan to execute its deportation plan with Rwanda.

The UK government’s deal with Rwanda signed in 2022 was to cost $146 million. This year British interior minister Suella Braverman visited Rwanda to discuss possibilities to expand the deal.

Campaigners challenged the legality of the policy in the courts, a move that stalled the deportations.

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Those against the policy say it is costly and will criminalise thousands of genuine refugees who have very few routes to seek asylum in Britain without entering the country.

Deportation deal is unlawful

The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a group of people who arrived in the UK in small boats, plus an asylum charity, who argued the policy is unlawful.

A panel of three judges were split over whether Rwanda qualified as a “safe third country” for UK asylum cases to be heard, and two said it did not.

“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 faced persecution or other inhumane treatment, when in fact they have a good claim for asylum. In that sense, Rwanda is not a safe third country,” said Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett.

“Unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum process are corrected, sending asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful,” the court stressed in a summary of the judgment. 

“We’re absolutely delighted that the Court of Appeal has upheld the argument Rwanda is not a safe country for people seeking asylum and that people will not be sent to Rwanda,” Alison Pickup, director of Asylum Aid, a campaign group involved in the case, told reporters.

Rwanda’s decision to take in UK asylum seekers criticized

Rwanda rejects ruling

Rwanda’s government has said that it takes issue with the ruling by the UK court that the country is not safe for asylum seekers and refugees.

Yolande Makolo, spokesperson for the Rwandan government, said “While this is ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system, we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees.”

“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.

“We make a significant contribution to dealing with the impacts of the global migration crisis. Rwandans know what it means to be forced to flee home, and to make a new life in a new country,” She added.

UK government to appeal ruling

The UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak has said the government will appeal against the court ruling.

He said he “fundamentally disagrees” with the ruling and said the government will challenge it in the Supreme Court.

Mr Sunak said that while he respects the court’s decision he will do “whatever is necessary” to disrupt criminal gangs operating small boat crossings.

“I strongly believe the Rwandan government has provided the assurances necessary to ensure there is no real risk that asylum-seekers relocated under the Rwanda policy would be wrongly returned to third countries – something that the Lord Chief Justice agrees with,” he said.

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