Rwanda pact UNLAWFUL: Supreme Court leaves Rishi Sunak's illegal migration plan in tatters in damning ruling

Rishi Sunak

The Supreme Court has ruled that it would be unlawful for the UK to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, in a major blow to the Government

Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke

Published: 15/11/2023

- 10:19

Updated: 15/11/2023

- 13:44

The court came to the decision unanimously this morning

The Supreme Court has ruled that it would be unlawful for the UK to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, in a major blow to the Government.

All five justices unanimously agreed with the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the Rwanda policy was unlawful.

Delivering his judgement, Lord Reed noted that "thecourtofappealwasrighttooverturnthehighcourt'sdecisionandtoconsidertheevidenceagainforitself".

He cited concerns about "media and political freedom", the country's "poor human rights record" and a "misunderstanding of its obligations under the Refugee Convention".

WATCH: Rwanda asylum plan REJECTED as Supreme Court deems it UNLAWFUL

Rishi Sunak will hold an emergency press conference at 4.45pm to address the ruling.

The Home Secretary will also address the Commons this afternoon.

Speaking after the ruling, he said: “Channel crossings are down compared to last year. We’ve increased immigration enforcement activity, asylum decisions have tripled since the start of the year and we’ve ramped up returns.

“Our partnership with Rwanda, while bold and ambitious, is just one part of a vehicle of measures 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.

“We will carefully review today’s judgment to understand implications and next steps.

“We will continue to look at every possible avenue to disrupt the vile criminal gangs’ business model of putting innocent lives at risk for their own financial, selfish gain.”

Lord Reed said the “legal test” in the case was whether there were “substantial grounds” for believing that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would be at “real risk” of being sent back to the countries they came from where they could face “ill treatment”.

He said: “In the light of the evidence which I have summarised, 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.”

The decision is a major blow to the Government, which had been relying on the pact as the crux of its plan to slash illegal migration figures.

It comes just one day after former Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused Rishi Sunak of a "betrayal" over his failure to stop the boats.

Braverman claimed Sunak "rejected" available options she presented to him, such as "blocking off" the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act.

She said: "I was clear from day one that if you did not wish to leave the ECHR, the way to securely and swiftly deliver our Rwanda partnership would be to block off the ECHR, the HRA and any other obligations which inhibit our ability to remove those with no right to be in the UK. Our deal expressly referenced ‘notwithstanding clauses’ to that effect.

"Your rejection of this path was not merely a betrayal of our agreement, but a betrayal of your promise to the nation that you would do “whatever it takes” to stop the boats."

But dismissing thoughts that exiting the ECHR would be a silver bullet for the migrant pact, the judge said it is "not only the ECHR which is relevant to this case".

Lord Reed said: "There are also other international treaties which also prohibit the return of asylum seekers to their countries of origin without a proper examination of their claims".


Sonya Sceats, chief executive at charity Freedom from Torture said the decision is a "victory for reason and compassion".

She said: “We are delighted that the Supreme Court has affirmed what caring people already knew: the UK Government’s ‘cash for humans’ deal with Rwanda is not only deeply immoral, but it also flies in the face of the laws of this country.”

Meanwhile, Detention Action called for new Home Secretary James Cleverly to "abandon this policy altogether, rather than repeating this mistake by seeking a similar agreement with another country”.

Its director James Wilson said: “We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court and are deeply relieved that people seeking asylum here will not be handed over to an authoritarian regime.

“We are proud to have been one of the first claimants to bring this historic legal challenge, in solidarity with the thousands of people threatened with removal to Rwanda.

“We urge the new Home Secretary to abandon this policy altogether, rather than repeating this mistake by seeking a similar agreement with another country.”

The Liberal Democrats said it was time for Home Secretary James Cleverly to “get on with fixing the broken asylum system” after Supreme Court judges ruled the UK Government’s Rwanda policy is unlawful.

Alistair Carmichael MP, the party’s home affairs spokesman, said: “It was clear from the get-go that the Conservatives’ Rwanda scheme was destined to fail.

“Not only is it immoral, unworkable and incredibly costly for taxpayers — but the Supreme Court has confirmed that it is unlawful too.

“So much time and money has already been wasted. It is time for James Cleverly to get serious and get on with fixing the broken asylum system.

“Tackling the sky-high asylum backlog and creating safe and legal routes for sanctuary will make far more progress towards that than this pet project policy ever could.”

You may like