The British Supreme Court defeated the government on November 15, 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.
What is Rwanda’s plan?
The Rwandan plan is the British government’s response to the growing number of migrants from around the world – 46,000 in 2022 – crossing the English Channel from France to Britain on small boats. Most people who arrive via this route seek asylum and, in the past, many have been granted it. The conservative government says these migrants should not be treated as real refugees because they did not seek asylum in another safe country, such as France, which they reached first.
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 6,000 miles away where they do not want to live . No one has yet been sent to Rwanda, as the plan has been challenged in the courts.
Making the plan work has become a central pillar of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats”.
What did the UK Supreme Court say?
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.
What was the British government’s response?
Mr Sunak said the government would soon conclude a legally binding treaty with Rwanda which 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, Mr Sunak said he would consider ignoring or deviating from international human rights treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights. man. The move is supported by some members of Mr 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 its exemplary treatment of refugees”. The Rwandan government says the country is ready to welcome British migrants and plans to build more than 1,000 homes, including leisure facilities, for those deported.
Have other countries tried similar policies?
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.
Italy recently reached an agreement with Albania for the Balkan country to temporarily house and welcome some of the thousands of migrants reaching Italian shores. There is one crucial difference with the British plan: it is not a one-way ticket. Successful asylum seekers could start a new life in Italy and not in Albania.
This story was reported by the Associated Press.