The Supreme Court has ruled against Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda migrants scheme in a major blow to the Prime Minister after Suella Braverman warned he has no credible Plan B stop the boats. The Mail has more.
Justices at the U.K.’s highest court unanimously upheld an earlier High Court judgment on legislation announced 18 months ago to send asylum seekers who arrive in the U.K. by unauthorised means to Kigali to have their claims heard there.
The defeat will further frustrate what Downing Street admits is a “crucial” part of his plans to halt Channel crossings and inflame the row with Mrs Braverman, who was sacked Home Secretary on Monday.
Ministers had vowed to press on with the scheme regardless of the result today, with options including elevating the Rwanda deal to a treaty ratified in Parliament – making it harder for the courts to block – and passing emergency legislation to disapply human rights laws.
In a summary of the judgment, President of the Supreme Court Lord Reed said there would be a risk of genuine asylum seekers being returned by Rwanda to the home country they fled from.
Lord Reed said the “legal test” in the case was whether there were “substantial grounds” for believing that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would be at “real risk” of being sent back to the countries they came from where they could face “ill treatment”.
He said: “In the light of the evidence which I have summarised, the Court of Appeal concluded that there were such grounds.
“We are unanimously of the view that they were entitled to reach that conclusion. Indeed, having been taken through the evidence ourselves, we agree with their conclusion.” …
In an excoriating letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, Mrs Braverman warned he has no “credible Plan B” if an earlier High Court ruling that the policy is unlawful is upheld.
As of November 12th, 27,284 people had crossed the Channel.
Meanwhile, the “legacy” backlog of U.K. asylum applications stood at 33,253 as of October 29th, down nearly a half (47%) from 62,157 on July 30th, according to new figures from the Home Office.
Mrs Braverman’s replacement, James Cleverly, outlined the possible outcomes during the first meeting of the Prime Minister’s new-look Cabinet after the dramatic reshuffle that saw Mrs Braverman shown the door.
Senior ministers had wargamed responses to a defeat, but Mrs Braverman warned of a “betrayal” of Mr. Sunak’s promise to do “whatever it takes” to stop the crossings regardless.
Worth reading in full.
This means that the one plan anyone had come up with that might – despite being watered down – possibly prevent mass illegal immigration has been ruled unlawful by the country’s top court.
The problem it appears is that under existing law it is not permitted to have policies which, in the opinion of the judiciary, create a “real risk” of returning genuine asylum seekers to their own countries. To escape this trap, which seems to rule out all available and effective means of securing the country’s borders, it will be necessary for the Government either to establish a different, weaker test in law (which will mean disapplying the ECHR, perhaps removing the test altogether), or to insist that Parliament’s assessment of the risk should take precedence over that of the judiciary. Alternatively, since the court has suggested the problem is specifically with the current state of Rwanda’s asylum system, the Government could try to find a different third country with an asylum system that meets with the judiciary’s approval.
The Government will now likely conclude that if the law does not permit any practical way of preventing mass illegal immigration then there is something wrong with the law. But will the PM have the gumption to do “whatever it takes” to change the law and secure the U.K.’s borders?
Stop Press: Rishi Sunak has released a statement in response to the ruling.
We have seen today’s judgment and will now consider next steps.
This was not the outcome we wanted, but we have spent the last few months planning for all eventualities and we remain completely committed to stopping the boats.
Crucially, the Supreme Court – like the Court of Appeal and the High Court before it – has confirmed that the principle of sending illegal migrants to a safe third country for processing is lawful. This confirms the Government’s clear view from the outset.
Illegal migration destroys lives and costs British taxpayers millions of pounds a year. We need to end it and we will do whatever it takes to do so.
Because when people know that if they come here illegally, they won’t get to stay then they will stop coming altogether, and we will stop the boats.
Does the Government have a different third country in mind? If so, it has never mentioned it. Or is the plan to sort out the Rwandan asylum system in double time? That would seem unrealistic.
All eyes on Sunak’s next move.
Stop Press 2: The Rwandan Government has objected to the decision, saying: “We do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees.”
Stop Press 3: At Prime Minster’s Questions Sunak has said that the Government will finalise a new treaty with Rwanda to pave the way for deportations. At a later press conference he said:
I do not agree with this decision but I respect it and accept it. The rule of law is fundamental to our democracy. We have prepared for all outcomes of this case. And so we have been working on a new international treaty with Rwanda.
This will provide a guarantee in law that those who are relocated from the U.K. to Rwanda will be protected against removal from Rwanda and it will make clear that we will bring back anyone if ordered to do so by a court.
We will finalise this treaty in light of today’s judgment and ratify it without delay.
But we need to end the merry-go-round. I said I was going to fundamentally change our country, and I meant it. So I’m also announcing today that we will take the extraordinary step of introducing emergency legislation. This will enable Parliament to confirm that with our new treaty, Rwanda is safe.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has said Sunak should ask Parliament to change the law to designate Rwanda a “safe” country under the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004. Law specialist Richard Ekins, on the other hand, argues that the Government should “abandon a policy of outsourcing asylum claims to Rwanda and instead to adopt a policy of offshoring, whereby U.K. officials process claims outside the U.K., whether in Rwanda or in a British overseas territory, with genuine refugees then settled in safe third countries”.