Rwanda: UK Supreme Court Rejects Plan to Send Asylum Seekers to Rwanda

Harare — The UK Supreme Court has declared the UK government’s policy of sending certain asylum seekers to Rwanda illegal, BBC reports.

The Court ruled that there was a chance that any asylum applicant brought there would be sent back home, in violation of both UK and international human rights legislation. It also mentioned Rwanda’s history of mistreating refugees and its dismal record on human rights as reasons for its decision.

Announced in April 2022, the five-year pilot called for sending certain asylum seekers to Rwanda in order to file claims for protection there. They may have been awarded refugee status under the proposal, allowing them to remain in Rwanda. If not, they may have requested refuge in a different “safe third country” or applied to live there under other circumstances.

At this point, no one was relocated to Rwanda as an asylum seeker. A legal challenge forced the cancellation of the maiden flight, which was originally planned for June 2022.

The strategy, according to the government, will discourage individuals from entering the UK via “illegal, dangerous, or unnecessary methods,” such as travelling across the English Channel in tiny boats. In 2022, more than 45,700 travellers arrived in the UK using this route – the largest number since statistics were kept.

The number of asylum seekers who could have been sent to Rwanda remained unclear. However, prior to January 1, 2022, the government said that “anyone entering the UK illegally” may be sent, with no cap on the numbers. As per the agreement, Rwanda has the option to request that the UK accept some of its most vulnerable refugees.

Although the UK has already given the Rwandan government £140 million (approximately U.S.$174 million), the total cost of the programme has not been disclosed. According to an economic impact study done for the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, it would cost £63,000 (approximately U.S.$73,000) more to remove each person to a third country, like Rwanda, than to keep them in the UK.