The UK Court of Appeal has declared the UK government’s proposal to transfer asylum seekers to Rwanda unlawful. According to the judgment rendered by three judges in London, Rwanda cannot be considered a safe third country due to deficiencies in its asylum system.
The court emphasised that unless these deficiencies are addressed, any attempts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda would be in violation of the law.
The Court of Appeal sided with migrants and campaigners who initiated the legal challenge, concurring that the UK government was unable to provide assurances that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would not be subjected to deportation back to the very country they were seeking refuge from.
The court acknowledged the validity of their concerns and found merit in the argument put forth by the claimants, thereby reinforcing the view that the proposed relocation plan lacked the necessary guarantees to protect the welfare and safety of the individuals involved.
‘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,’ said the judges.
A majority of judges were not convinced by Rwanda’s assurances, saying that although made in good faith the evidence they presented ‘does not establish that the necessary changes had by then been reliably effected or would have been at the time of the proposed removals.’
Despite Rwanda’s assurances, a majority of judges remained unconvinced, stating that although the assurances were given in good faith, the evidence presented failed to establish that the required modifications had been implemented reliably or would have been in place at the time of the proposed removals.
The judge said: ‘The evidence not establish that the necessary changes had by then been reliably effected or would have been at the time of the proposed removals.’
‘In consequence, sending anyone to Rwanda would constitute a breach of article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,’ they added.
According to a statement relayed to reporters, the Rwandan government affirmed its continued commitment to the plan.
‘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,’ said government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo.
Makolo pressed that Rwanda was ‘one of the safest countries in the world’ and said, ‘We have been recognised by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees.’
The proposal was initially introduced by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson as an effort to address the escalating numbers of migrants crossing the English Channel from northern France in small boats. However, the proposal generated widespread protests from rights groups and charitable organizations.
Additionally, last-minute legal challenges effectively halted the initial deportation flights in June, reflecting the mounting opposition and legal obstacles encountered by the plan.
The High Court in London received a case filed by a group of individuals who had reached the UK by crossing the English Channel in small boats, along with organizations providing assistance to migrants. Their legal challenge contested the legitimacy of the government’s policy, citing multiple concerns, including the suitability of Rwanda as a safe third country.