The UK Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the government’s Rwanda plan is unlawful. Justices deciding the case held that the policy violated section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) in that the plan is incompatible with human rights standards the UK is obligated to uphold.
The Rwanda plan was an immigration policy used by the UK government to “stop the boats” of migrants arriving in the UK. Working alongside the Illegal Migration Act, the plan deemed that anyone who was found to have illegally arrived in the UK could be “detained and then promptly removed” either to their home country or a “safe third country,” such as Rwanda. In response to this, a group of asylum seekers filed a legal challenge against the Home Office’s claim that that Rwanda was a “safe third country.”
The case, which began October 9, was an appeal by the Home Office from a Court of Appeal decision. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and upheld the lower court’s ruling, which found that the policy was unlawful because it violated the Home Secretary’s obligations to make policy in line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 3 of the ECHR “prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The court held, “[T]here are substantial grounds for believing that the removal of the claimants to Rwanda would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment.” The Home Secretary was therefore in breach of section 6 of the HRA, which states, “It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.”
In response to the ruling, newly appointed Home Secretary James Cleverly released a video statement reiterating the government’s commitment to “stop the boats.” He stated:
We will look closely on the points they have raised. We are determined to break the business model on these evil people smuggling gangs. We are determined to protect our borders. And we are determined to stop the boats.
In addition to this, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated he was “disappointed in the outcome.” Moving forward, while all immigration law must be in line with the HRA and ECHR, Sunak commented that he was “prepared to revisit [the UK’s] domestic legal frameworks” if necessary.