Britain's Supreme Court has ruled that the British Government’s plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda is unlawful.
A split decision in the Court of Appeal earlier this year had reversed an earlier High Court decision that Rwanda was a safe third country.
In a unanimous decision today (15 November), the five Supreme Court judges rejected an appeal by the British Government and agreed with the Court of Appeal that there had not been a proper assessment of whether Rwanda was safe.
The court said that there were "substantial grounds" to believe that people deported to Rwanda could then be sent back to their country of origin, where they would face “a real risk” of ill-treatment.
The Supreme Court decision centred on the principle of ‘non-refoulement’, which requires that asylum-seekers are not returned, directly or indirectly, to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, or where they would be at real risk of torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment.
The judges ruled that asylum-seekers could be sent only to a third country that respected the principle of non-refoulement. They added that asylum-seekers were protected against refoulement by several international treaties that had been ratified by the British Government.
The ruling pointed out that Britain had criticised Rwanda in 2021 for “extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture”, and that British officials had also raised concerns about constraints on media and political freedom.
The judges also referred to evidence from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who said that there were “serious and systematic defects in Rwanda’s procedures and institutions for processing asylum claims”.
The Rwanda policy had been enthusiastically supported and promoted by Suella Braverman, the former Home Secretary who was sacked earlier this week by prime minister Rishi Sunak.