The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the asylum arrangement with Rwanda was unlawful, stating concerns that refugees sent to Kigali might face the risk of being returned to their original countries, exposing them to potential inhumane treatment.
The unanimous decision by the five judges supported the Court of Appeal’s conclusion in June that a proper assessment of Rwanda’s safety had not been conducted. This overturns a previous decision that had deemed the arrangement safe.
The UK High Court of Appeal had earlier highlighted deficiencies in Rwanda’s asylum processes, declaring it not a safe third country for asylum seekers.
This ruling represents a significant setback for both the UK and Rwanda, who have actively promoted the arrangement as an innovative solution to address challenges in the international refugee protection regime.
The arrangement aims to deter criminality, exploitation, and abuse, while ensuring humane and respectful treatment of refugees.
Despite the legal setback, Rwanda expressed commitment to implementing the memorandum of understanding signed in April 2022, emphasizing its dedication to integrating relocated asylum seekers into Rwandan society.
The government contested the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers, emphasizing its adherence to international obligations and recognition by the UNHCR and other institutions for its exemplary treatment of refugees.
The UK Supreme Court’s decision challenges the viability of this asylum arrangement, prompting both nations to reconsider their approach to refugee protection.
In June, the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was estimated to cost $215,035 per person. This was according to the first detailed state assessment of a high-stakes promise to curb record numbers of people arriving in small boats.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government sought to send thousands of migrants over 6,400 kilometers to Rwanda as part of a deal with the central African country agreed to in 2022. In the government’s eyes, the plan was central in deterring asylum seekers arriving in small boats from France.
Sunak had made this one of his five priorities amid pressure from some of his own Conservative lawmakers and the public to resolve the issue, with his party well behind the main opposition Labour Party in opinion polls ahead of a national election due next year.
In an economic impact assessment published then, the government said the cost of deporting each individual to Rwanda would include costs such as an average $133,485 payment to Rwanda for hosting each asylum-seeker, $28,000 for the flight and escorting, and $22,882 for processing and legal costs.