UK Supreme Court to decide on Rwanda asylum plan

The UK government’s controversial plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court. The case will determine whether the scheme is compatible with human rights law and whether it poses a risk of torture for the people involved.

The plan, which was announced in April last year, aims to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel with the help of smugglers. The government argues that these people should have claimed asylum in France or elsewhere in the EU, rather than coming to the UK.

However, the plan has been met with fierce opposition from human rights groups, lawyers and some of the asylum seekers themselves. They claim that Rwanda’s asylum system is flawed and that there is a danger of being sent back to their countries of origin, where they could face persecution.

How did the plan come about?

The UK is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, which obliges it to consider the cases of people who arrive in the country seeking asylum. However, the government has been struggling to cope with the increasing number of migrants who reach the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats.

In order to reduce this influx, the government struck a deal with Rwanda in which the African nation agreed to take some of these asylum applicants off the UK’s hands. The UK has paid Rwanda £140m so far for this arrangement, but it is unclear how many people it would ever accept.

The first flight was scheduled to take off on 14 June 2022, with 47 migrants on board. However, this number was reduced to seven by the departure date, as lawyers intervened to stop the removals.

uk rwanda asylum seekers

What are the legal issues?

The legal challenge to the Rwanda plan has been going on for more than a year, involving several courts and judges. The main question is whether sending asylum seekers to Rwanda would violate their human rights, especially the prohibition of torture.

The High Court initially ruled that the Rwanda scheme was lawful, but that none of the seven migrants had been given a fair chance to put their case before being put on the list. The Court of Appeal then overturned this decision, finding that there were serious problems with Rwanda’s asylum system and that there was a real risk of refoulement – sending people back to countries where they could face harm.

The government appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, which will now have the final say on the matter. The Supreme Court will have to decide whether the Court of Appeal applied the correct legal tests and whether it assessed the evidence correctly.

What are the implications?

The outcome of the Supreme Court case will have significant implications for both the government and the asylum seekers involved. If the court upholds the Court of Appeal’s decision, then the Rwanda plan will be effectively scrapped, and any future deals with other countries will have to meet higher standards of human rights protection.

If the court rules in favour of the government, then it could resume its plan to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda. However, this could still face further obstacles, such as individual challenges from migrants or interventions from international courts.

The case also raises broader questions about how the UK should deal with migration and asylum issues, and what role international law should play in this context.

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