Tag: Supreme Court

Keir Starmer
BlogExecutive Committee

PM Keir Starmer cancels ‘stillborn’ Rwanda plan

PM Starmer, abandoned the plan to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda. The scheme faced legal challenges and was deemed ineffective. Britain’s new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer, announced on Saturday that he would cancel a plan to fly thousands of asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda. This plan, originally introduced by the Conservative government in 2022, aimed to stop asylum seekers from arriving on small boats by sending them to the East African nation. However, the plan faced extensive legal challenges, preventing any asylum seekers from being sent to Rwanda.

In his first press conference as prime minister, Starmer explained that the Rwanda policy would be abandoned because it would have only affected about 1% of asylum seekers and failed to serve as an effective deterrent. He stated, “The Rwanda scheme was dead and buried before it started. It’s never been a deterrent. I’m not prepared to continue with gimmicks that don’t act as a deterrent.”

The UK Supreme Court had declared the policy unlawful in November 2023, citing concerns that Rwanda could not be considered a safe third country. This led to the UK government signing a new treaty with Rwanda and passing new legislation to override the court’s decision. However, the legality of these actions was being challenged by charities and unions in the courts.

The British government had already invested hundreds of millions of pounds in Rwanda to set up accommodation and hire additional officials to process asylum seekers, funds that cannot be recovered. On July 8, Rwanda responded to the UK’s intention to end the Migration and Economic Development Partnership Agreement, stating it was “a problem of the UK, not Rwanda.”

Sonya Sceats, CEO of Freedom from Torture, one of the many organizations and charities that have campaigned to stop the Rwanda plan, welcomed Starmer’s announcement on Saturday. “We applaud Keir Starmer for moving immediately to close the door on this shameful scheme that played politics with the lives of people fleeing torture and persecution,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Agnes Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, had called on the new Labour government to follow through on its campaign promise to scrap the Rwanda pact.

“Our asylum system must be made to focus on delivering as fairly and efficiently as possible the security and certainty to which every refugee is entitled, however they may arrive,” Callamard wrote in a social media post.

She added that this is “just as demanded by our international obligations, the rule of law, and basic respect for every human.”


Articles & StatementsImmigration Committee

Court of Appeal: Plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is illegal

Court of Appeal, reviewing the Supreme Court’s judgement, ruled that the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was illegal. The UK Court of Appeal has ruled that it is illegal to send illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda. Two of the three judges ruled in favour of this, while the other defended the Supreme Court’s ruling that Rwanda is a safe third country.

In December 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda without assessing their asylum applications was lawful.

The Court of Appeal overturned the previous ruling on 29 June, ruling that sending asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful unless the country’s asylum system was changed, the BBC reported.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commented after the judgement: “While I respect the court, I fundamentally disagree with its conclusions. Rwanda is a safe country. The Supreme Court has recognised this. UNHCR has its own refugee plan for Libyan refugees in Rwanda. We will now ask for permission to appeal this decision.”

In the coming process, the ministers are expected to appeal the judgement at the Supreme Court.

In its judgement, the Court of Appeal said there was a “serious risk” that if the asylum seekers were sent to Rwanda, they would be returned to their home country and face persecution and ill-treatment there. Rwanda was thus ruled not to be a safe third country.

Supporters of the appeal against the Supreme Court ruling include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), human rights lawyers, civil society organisations and a group of asylum seekers.

UNHCR, which attended the hearing, said Rwanda had committed various human rights violations against asylum seekers within its borders. These include forced return to countries where they are at risk, deportation and arbitrary detention.

Ten asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Sudan and Albania who crossed the English Channel in small boats from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Sudan and Albania were among those who, together with the charity Asylum Aid, appealed the Supreme Court ruling.

Asylum Aid said the latest judgement ‘confirms the rule of law and the importance of justice’. “We are pleased that the court has ruled that the deportation process in Rwanda was unlawful on security grounds,” said Tessa Gregory, partner at law firm Leigh Day, which represented Asylum Aid. The human rights organisation Freedom From Torture called the ruling “a victory for reason and compassion”.

The Rwandan government argued that it was “one of the safest countries in the world” and was known for its “exemplary treatment of refugees”.

The judges who delivered the judgement said they agreed that the Rwandan government had given these assurances ‘in good faith’.