Rishi Sunak and James Cleverly, the new home secretary, plan a fresh treaty with Rwanda and an emergency law to overturn the supreme court ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country.
All five supreme court judges agreed that there was a real risk of asylum seekers being sent back to their countries of origin to face renewed persecution.
Rwanda previously had a similar plan with Israel (which was ruled unlawful by the Israeli Supreme Court in 2018). Within the Rwanda-Israel plan, Rwanda had agreed not to send individuals back to their country of origin but failed to comply with the agreement and in fact attempted to return over 100 Eritreans and Sudanese people to their countries of origin.
The court also found that there is a ‘surprisingly’ high rate of rejections for individuals from conflict zones including 100% rejections for individuals from Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen which are common nationalities of asylum seekers in the UK.
According to the judges, there is clear evidence that Rwanda has practiced refoulement, which has continued since the Rwanda plan was agreed.The government says the new treaty would provide a “guarantee” against refoulement.
The court’s ruling stressed that European convention on human rights (ECHR), frequently the target of Conservative right-wingers, was not the only authority protecting refugee rights. The government is also bound to observe UK legislation such as the Human Rights Act.
James Cleverly has expressed reluctance to leave the ECHR, of which the UK was a founding member. However, the government is facing growing pressure from the right wing of the party to do so.
Meanwhile, Lord Sumption, the former supreme court justice, was one of many legal figures alarmed by the government’s decision to ignore the court’s ruling.
He told News at 10, “I have never heard of them trying to change the facts, by law. For as long as black isn’t white, the business of passing acts of parliament to say that it is profoundly discreditable.”
He told the BBC that the proposed law to declare Rwanda safe was “constitutionally really quite extraordinary”. He declared that it would “effectively overrule a decision on the facts, on the evidence, by the highest court in the land”.
The government has already paid the Rwandan authorities £140 million towards the cost of the scheme.Rwanda is thought to have accommodation for between 100 to 200 asylum seekers at a time. In 2020, according to the home office’s 2022 review of Rwanda’s asylum system, the country made 228 decisions on asylum claims. In the same year, the UK made around 19,000 asylum decisions.