Five judges at the supreme court unanimously upheld an appeal court ruling that found there was a real risk of deported refugees having their claims in the east African country wrongly assessed or being returned to their country of origin to face persecution.
In the summary provided by the president of the court, Lord Reed, extensive reference was made to the other legal obligations that would prevent the UK from removing asylum seekers to a third country where there was a real risk that they could be returned to their country of origin without their application being properly addressed. This is the so-called principle of non-refoulement. In this survey of the applicable law, the ECHR was mentioned only in passing.
Having set up the legal test to be met, the Supreme Court then emphasised the substantial and detailed evidence that had been placed before the court by an intervener in the proceedings, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The court was persuaded by this evidence that there was no firm basis for being confident that the Rwanda government would comply with its international obligations. It was not enough for the Rwanda government to assert that it would do so, in the face of compendious material showing that it did not.
This means that it is the UN rather than the ECHR that has provided the practical obstacle to the government’s pursuit of the Rwanda policy, which undermines the attacks on the Strasbourg court in the run-up to today’s verdict. In essence, the UK leaving the ECHR would make little, if any, difference to the appeal decision that was handed down today.
The Supreme Court emphasised, as expected, that this was a legal rather than a political decision. The court was careful to leave open the possibility that the Rwanda policy could be made workable, subject to amendments and refinements
In response Rishi Sunak has said he will introduce emergency legislation to revive his Rwanda plan.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the prime minister said he did not agree with the Supreme Court decision but that he “respected it” and “accepted it”.
He said he will introduce “emergency legislation” to deem Rwanda a safe country and prevent the “merry-go-round” of legal challenges. The new legislation will deem Rwanda a 'safe' country.
Earlier this year The British government sent five Tamil refugees, who have attempted suicide on the British-held island of Diego Garcia, to Rwanda for medical treatment despite their pleas for resettlement.
According to the New Humanitarian, one asylum seeker attempted suicide by swallowing the blade of a broken pencil sharpener, whilst another broke a sewing needle and swallowed both parts. This was also attempted by three Tamil men stationed on the island on 13 March.
Read more at the Guardian