Sunak Stumbles Again: Top Court Blocks Rwanda Migrant Resettlement Plan

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15: Public law director Toufique Hossain speaks with the media
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Another blow for Rishi Sunak’s UK government as the country’s top court upholds a ruling that the plan to deal with the irregular migrant crisis by relocating some arrivals to new homes in Rwanda is not legally permissible.

The UK Supreme Court ruled on the so-called Rwanda policy on Wednesday morning, finding it unlawful on the grounds that once migrants deported from the United Kingdom to a ‘safe third country’ — in this case Rwanda — arrived, there was a risk they could then be deported again at a later date by Rwanda to their home nations, where they could face mistreatment. In the language of the judgement, this removal to their home countries is defined as “refoulement” and on the basis of the possibility of this happening, Rwanda was ruled to not be a safe country until that issue was resolved, and the policy therefore illegal.

The court acknowledged that this could change as Rwanda developed “structural changes and capacity-building” in the future, but as for the judgement “they were not shown to be in place at the time when the lawfulness of the policy had to be considered in these proceedings.”

Toufique Hossain, director of public law and immigration at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, (centre) with his legal team outside the Supreme Court in London. The court has ruled that the Rwanda asylum policy is unlawful, in a major blow for Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats”. Picture date: Wednesday November 15, 2023. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

(Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

As before, the Rwandan government itself has taken exception at the rhetoric in the British media and political circles which portrays it as a place totally unfit for people to live in. The Sun quotes a Rwandan spokesman who said of the decision that while the legality of the policy was a matter for the British courts, they objected to the rhetoric. He said: “we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees, in terms of refoulment. [sic]

“Rwanda and the UK have been working together to ensure the integration of relocated asylum seekers into Rwandan society.”

The court case comes nearly two years after the launch of the ‘Rwanda Policy’, a plan by the United Kingdom government to both discourage ‘irregular’ migration by would-be asylum seekers and economic migrants by questionable means such as crossing the English Channel by small boat, and also to bring down the overall cost of housing those migrants who did come. Rather than expensively putting up the rapidly growing number of arrivals in hotels across the United Kingdom, migrants deemed inadmissible as asylum seekers to the UK would be flown to Rwanda, where under an agreement with the UK government the Rwandan state would then take them on as refugees there.

The UK government would pay for the migrants to live in Rwanda, but this was judged as being cheaper than supporting them in Britain in perpetuity, where the costs of living such as food, energy, and housing are surging.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had promised, when taking power in a palace coup against the identifiably right-wing but politically naive Liz Truss government 13 months ago, that he would “stop the boats”, and the Rwanda policy was a key part of that. The ruling today is another body-blow against Sunak’s credibility on the issue, coming as it does just hours after he defenstrated the government minister responsible for delivering the policy.

In a caustic letter published after the ouster, erstwhile interior minister Suella Braverman accused Sunak of having all appearances of having lied about wanting to tackle immigration, and furthermore said he was guilty of “magical thinking” about the Rwanda court case. This led him, she said, of having permitted no “plan-b” planning to prepare the government for its looming defeat in the courts.

But even these stinging attacks pale into nothing compared to the bigger picture of the Sunak govermnment’s actual track record on mass migration, which has been in all areas except rhetoric practically as progressive as possible. Considerable loosening of migration rules have meant legal migration levels to the United Kingdom have surged to historic levels, with over a million arrivals a year, and net migration running at over half a million with no sign of respite.

The failure of the Conservatives to deal with immigration — quite possibly by design — and the failure of the Rwanda deal in particular today has seen some criticism. Migration Watch, a London pressure group which campaigns on the behalf of the clearly and repeatedly expressed majority view among UK voters that migration levels are too high, warned the signal that the UK really had no plans in place to discourage migration would have consequences.

They said: “The Rwanda deal is dead in the water. This judgment will be a huge incentive to cross the Channel illegally and claim asylum, knowing that the chances of being removed anywhere will be very small. The people smugglers will be rubbing their hands with glee.”

Richard Tice of the former Brexit Party, now Reform UK, was more strident and said in a brusque social media video that: “So that’s it. The Prime Minister’s flagship policy is in deep, deep trouble. He won’t be able to stop the boat unless he does what we know works. What I’ve been saying all along: copy the Australian policy.

“We’ve got to push back, you’ve got to pick up and take back to France. We know it works, it worked in Australia within a matter of weeks. It requires courage, it requires guts, it requires leadership. Something which is woefully lacking with this Prime Minister.”

This story is developing and more follows




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