In April 2022 the government announced an agreement with Rwanda in which some of the asylum seekers in the UK would be sent to Rwanda to have their asylum claim processed and, if successful, stay and reside there.
After more than a year of litigation in the courts, and a payment of £140 million by the UK government to the Rwandan government, the Supreme Court ruled a few weeks ago that Rwanda is not a safe place to send asylum seekers.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is critical of Rwanda’s human rights deficiencies, its non-compliance with international agreements, lack of independence of judges, amongst other negatives. In short, the Supreme Court considers that the Rwandan government is not a government whose word can be trusted and which guarantees the rights of asylum seekers including the principle of “non-refoulement”.
The principle of “non-refoulement” means that an asylum seeker cannot be expelled or returned to his or her country of origin until his or her case has been duly processed, and the person has received a response to his or her asylum application. This principle includes a prohibition on expelling asylum seekers to third countries where there is a risk that the person will be returned to his or her country of origin.
Although the Rwandan government assured the UK government that it would respect the principle of not returning asylum seekers to their country of origin, the Supreme Court found that there was sufficient evidence, some of it provided by the UN Refugee Agency, to believe that the asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would not be threatened with forcible repatriation to their countries of origin.
What is the next step for the UK government? Logic would indicate that, in the face of such a blunt ruling, and having wasted so much time and money, the government would drop the issue, but this is not the case. We will see in the coming weeks what the government plans to do.
(Photo credit here)