The Supreme Court today unanimously held that the policy to remove Asylum Seekers to Rwanda was unlawful, as Rwanda was not a safe third country.
The judgement comes after the Secretary of State for the Home department sought to appeal the Court of Appeal’s determination that the government’s Rwanda Policy was unlawful. The Court of Appeal upheld the appellants’ claims that the policy presented a substantial risk of “refoulement” – a return to the country from which they had fled..
The Supreme Court was asked to determine whether the Home Secretary undertook a thorough examination of Rwanda’s asylum procedures, with the aim of preventing refoulment.
The Home Secretary relied on a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ from the Rwandan government, combined with financial incentives, as evidence that the Rwanda would not refoul asylum seekers. However, the appellants had offered contrary evidence, including a 100% rejection rate for those fleeing conflict zones, and breaches of a similar scheme between Rwanda and Israel.
Lord Reed, delivering the judgment, said, ‘the changes needed to eliminate the risk of refoulement may be delivered in the future, but they have not been shown to be in place now’, thus presently presenting grounds for a real risk of refoulement, and rendering the policy unlawful.
‘The fact of a prior breach of such an assurance is clearly relevant regardless of the identity of the state to which it is provided…the same requesting state is acting in the same context and there is no material distinction between a willingness to breach assurances given to State A and assurances given to State B’.
It is important to note, however, that the Supreme Court ruling did not comment on the legality of the deportation of asylum seekers as a policy but confined its judgement to determining the sufficiency of Rwanda as a ‘safe third-party state.’ Thus remains the question as to where to next for asylum seekers in the UK.