The United Kingdom Supreme Court in a much expected ruling said on Wednesday that the government's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful.
The five Court's judges unanimously upheld a June Court of Appeals previous decision that the policy was unlawful since the African country is not a safe place to house asylum seekers. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reacted saying that his government is completely committed to stopping the boat people
Lord Reed, the court's president, said that there were substantial grounds to believe that genuine refugees sent to the country could be at risk of being returned to countries from which they have fled - where they could be subject to inhumane treatment.
The judgment does not ban sending migrants to another country - but it leaves the £140m Rwanda scheme in tatters - and it's not clear which other nations are prepared to do a similar deal with the UK. At one point the UK government suggested among other possible places to send sending asylum seekers was British Overseas Territory, Falkland Islands.
The British government had argued that Rwanda had given clear and trustworthy diplomatic assurances that anyone sent there from the UK would be treated fairly and humanely.
But in a key intervention in the case, the UN's refugee agency said Rwanda's asylum system was deeply unfair - and officials could send migrants back to home countries where they had previously been persecuted or tortured.
Lord Reed added, The legal test which has to be applied in this case is whether there are substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would be at real risk of refoulment.
In the light of the evidence which I have summaries, the Court of Appeal concluded that there were such grounds. We are unanimously of the view that they were entitled to reach that conclusion. Indeed, having been taken through the evidence ourselves, we agree with their conclusion, added Lord Reed.
We accept the Home Secretary's submission that the Rwandan government entered into the agreement in good faith, and that the capacity of the Rwandan system to produce accurate and fair decisions can and will be built up.
Nevertheless, asking ourselves whether there were substantial grounds for believing that a real risk of refoulement existed at the relevant time, we have concluded that there were.
The changes needed to eliminate the risk of refoulement may be delivered in the future, but they have not been shown to be in place now. The Home Secretary's appeal is therefore dismissed.
Following the ruling, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak released a statement, saying it was not the outcome they wanted, however he added that his government is still completely committed to stopping the boats.
The Supreme Court has confirmed that the principle of sending illegal migrants to a safe third country for processing is lawful and it confirms the government's clear view from the outset, he added.
The government has been working on a new treaty with Rwanda, and we'll finalize that in light of today's judgment. If necessary, I am prepared to revisit our domestic legal frameworks, said Sunak.
Meanwhile, new Home Secretary James Cleverly reacted to the verdict, saying the UK's partnership with the East African country, while bold and ambitious, is just one part of a way to stop the boats and tackle illegal migration.
But clearly there is an appetite for this concept. Across Europe, illegal migration is increasing and governments are following our lead – Italy, Germany and Austria are all exploring models similar to our partnership with Rwanda, he said.
We will carefully review today's judgment to understand implications and next steps, added Cleverly, who replaced Suella Braverman as home secretary on Monday after a major cabinet reshuffle..
Britain's opposition Labour Party said that the Conservative Party's Rwanda plan has failed and Sunak is too weak to deliver on his promises to the British people.
He should adopt Labour's plan to reduce the backlog and go after criminal gangs, it said on X.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said: My Labour government will stop squandering taxpayer's money and deliver the secure borders that the country needs.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan reacted to the government's plan, saying: it's not cruel, callous and morally reprehensible – the Supreme Court has confirmed it's unlawful too.
Sending people fleeing violence and persecution to a country thousands of miles away is shameful, he said on X.
Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf called the plan morally repugnant, adding that the policy must be scrapped.
We need a humane system that doesn't leave asylum seekers stuck in destitution for years without the right to work, he said on X.
This is a huge victory, but the fight for a humane asylum policy is not over. We cannot stop campaigning until there is safe passage for all those just trying to survive, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on X.
In a statement, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that Britain has a moral and legal responsibility to those who come to the country seeking safety and refuge.
Nongovernmental organizations, including Save the Children and Refugee Council, also welcomed the court ruling and called on the British government to reconsider its approach.
The European Court of Human Rights stopped the first deportation flight to Rwanda at the last minute in June last year.
Tackling small boat crossings by irregular migrants across the British Channel is among five priorities of the British government, as more than 45,000 migrants arrived in the country that way last year.