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UK-Rwanda: UK Court of Appeal declares the asylum seekers’ deportation plan to Rwanda illegal

In the late morning of Thursday, June 29, 2023, the British Court of Appeal ruled that the UK government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is illegal, as the three appellate judges have unanimously declared that Rwanda cannot be treated as a safe third country. This is a setback for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s project to prevent migrants from crossing the English Channel on small boats.

As reported by “Focus on Africa” in April 2022, last year the British and Rwandan governments had reached an agreement whereby tens of thousands of asylum seekers arriving on English shores would be deported over 6,400 km away to the East African country.

On that occasion, the first scheduled deportation flight was halted by a last-minute judgment from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which imposed an injunction preventing any deportations until the conclusion of legal proceedings in Great Britain.

Subsequently, in December 2022, the High Court ruled that the British policy was lawful, but this decision was appealed by asylum seekers from various countries (especially Syria, Iraq, and Iran), along with human rights organizations, leading to today’s ruling where the entire scheme is blocked, at least for now.

Meanwhile, in the first half of March 2023, the new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the new Home Secretary Suella Braverman returned more determined than ever to the controversial plan of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda, officially with the aim of “disrupting the business model of human trafficking gangs.”

Today, the Court of Appeal has finally decided that the project is currently impracticable because the Rwandan asylum system is deficient, as stated by Judge Ian Burnett, “there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that people sent to Rwanda will be repatriated to their countries of origin, where they may face persecution or other inhumane treatment.” It is very likely that the British government will challenge the Supreme Court’s ruling, but even if successful, it would still be rather unlikely for deportation flights to start this year.

On the political front, however, today’s ruling is a blow to the Sunak government, which is already grappling with high inflation rates and a decline in popular approval. The Prime Minister, nevertheless, insists that “stopping the boats” in the English Channel remains one of his top five priorities. In 2022, a total of 45,755 people arrived in Great Britain on small boats, mainly from France, while over 11,000 people have arrived in the first half of 2023.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Suella Braverman has stated that she “respectfully disagrees with the court’s judgment,” which she finds “disappointing.”



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