Home Politics The British government wants to send migrants to Rwanda. Here’s why judges say it’s illegal

The British government wants to send migrants to Rwanda. Here’s why judges say it’s illegal

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The British Supreme Court has ruled that the government’s flagship policy of sending migrants on one-way trips to Rwanda is unlawful.

LONDON — Britain’s Supreme Court dealt a defeat to the government on Wednesday, ruling that its flagship policy of sending migrants on one-way trips to Rwanda was illegal. The government is committed to making some changes and continuing with this controversial plan.

Here’s a look at the decision and what could happen next.


To try to deter people from undertaking risky journeys, the UK struck a deal with Rwanda in April 2022 to send migrants arriving in the UK as stowaways or on boats to that country East Africa, where their asylum applications would be processed and, if successful, they would stay.

Human rights groups and other critics of the plan say it is unworkable and unethical to send migrants to a country 4,000 miles (6,400 miles) away from where they don’t want to live. No one has yet been sent to Rwanda, as planned. was challenged in court.

Making the plan work has become a central pillar of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats”.


The Supreme Court has ruled that Rwanda is not a safe third country where migrants can be sent. Five judges unanimously declared that “returning the applicants to Rwanda would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment” because they could be returned to the countries of origin they fled.

The judges said there was evidence that Rwanda had a culture that misunderstood its obligations under the Refugee Convention, was dismissive of asylum seekers from the Middle East and Afghanistan and had little experience of the asylum procedures needed to deal with migrant cases from around the world. world.


Sunak said the government would soon conclude a legally binding treaty with Rwanda that would address the court’s concerns, in part by barring Rwanda from returning any migrants deported from the UK to their country of origin. He also plans to pass a law declaring Rwanda a safe country under British law.

If that fails to end the legal challenges, Sunak said he would consider ignoring or departing from international human rights treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights. The move is supported by some members of Sunak’s ruling Conservative Party, but would spark strong domestic opposition and international criticism. The only European countries that are not party to the rights convention are Belarus and Russia.

The Rwandan government insists it is “committed to its international obligations” and has been recognized by the UN and other international institutions “for our exemplary treatment of refugees”. build more than 1,000 homes, including recreational facilities, for deportees.


Britain is not alone in trying to control irregular immigration. Much of Europe and the United States are grappling with how best to handle migrants seeking refuge from war, violence, oppression and global warming that has caused devastating droughts and floods.

A few countries have tried processing asylum seekers overseas, including Australia, which has operated an asylum processing center on the Pacific island of Nauru since 2012.

From 2013 to 2018, Israel had an agreement with Rwanda to expel African migrants, until the Israeli Supreme Court declared it illegal. Discussions on a similar agreement between Denmark and Rwanda have not borne fruit.

“There is no other evidence that this policy actually works elsewhere, at least in the European context,” said Joelle Grogan, a UK legal expert at the Changing Europe think tank.

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