The United Kingdom Supreme Court has dismissed a contentious government proposal to repatriate migrants to Rwanda.
The apex court upheld the ruling of a lower court, declaring the plan unlawful and dealing a significant blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
In a unanimous decision, a panel of five Supreme Court judges concurred with the Appeal Court’s judgment that the policy was incompatible with Britain’s international treaty obligations. They concluded that there were substantial grounds to believe that sending the claimants to Rwanda would expose them to a genuine risk of mistreatment.
The Supreme Court further supported the Appeal Court’s findings in June, which highlighted the potential for forced returns of asylum seekers and refugees to countries where they might face persecution, a violation known as refoulement. The judges agreed with the evidence presented and expressed their agreement in a 56-page ruling.
The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Sunak, had argued that the Rwanda scheme was crucial in curbing “illegal” immigration via small boats across the English Channel, an issue expected to feature prominently in the upcoming general election. However, this ruling brings an end to the saga that began in April of the previous year when the UK signed an agreement with Rwanda to establish interim centers for undocumented migrants, leaving the government’s immigration agenda in disarray.
The decision is also likely to deepen divisions within the ruling Tory party between right-wing lawmakers and moderates.