Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman suffer major blow as UK's Rwanda policy ruled to be unlawful

Suella Braverman in Rwanda

The decision reverses the High Court's December ruling

Sam Montgomery

By Sam Montgomery

Published: 29/06/2023

- 10:27

Updated: 29/06/2023

- 13:14

Court of Appeal rules in favour of asylum seekers and Asylum Aid charity

The Government has lost in the Court of Appeal, rendering the Rwanda policy unlawful.

Though the result was a split decision, the Court ruled in favour of campaigners and the Asylum Aid charity.

Three Court of Appeal judges agreed by a majority of two to one that Rwanda was not a safe country, and that deportation of migrants to the east African nation would therefore be unlawful.

Master of the Rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill believed the policy to be unlawful, though Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon agreed with the Government that Rwanda is a safe country.

Sunak Braverman

A hammer blow for Braverman and Sunak


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded to the ruling: "While I respect the court I fundamentally disagree with their conclusions.

"I strongly believe the Rwandan government has provided the assurances necessary to ensure there is no real risk that asylum-seekers relocated under the Rwanda policy would be wrongly returned to third countries – something that the Lord Chief Justice agrees with.

"Rwanda is a safe country. The High Court agreed. The UNHCR have their own refugee scheme for Libyan refugees in Rwanda. We will now seek permission to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.

"The policy of this government is very simple, it is this country – and your government – who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs.

"And I will do whatever is necessary to make that happen."

The decision derails parts of the Government's Illegal Migration Bill, which proposes to provide powers to detain and deport any migrant arriving illegally in the UK to their home country or to a third safe country.

Lord Chief Justice Burnett of Maldon (centre) and Master of the Rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos (left) with Lord Justice Fulford (right)

Lord Chief Justice Burnett of Maldon (centre) and Master of the Rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos (left) with Lord Justice Fulford (right)


On the decision, Lord Burnett said: "The result is that the High Court's decision that Rwanda was a safe third country is reversed - and that unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum processes are corrected removal of asylum-seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful.

"Finally, the Court of Appeal makes clear that its decision implies no view whatever about the political merits or otherwise of the Rwanda policy.

"Those are entirely a matter for the government, on which the court has nothing to say. The court's concern is only whether the policy complies with the law as laid down by Parliament."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has issued this statement: “The British people want to stop the boats, and so does this Government. That’s what I am determined to deliver and I won’t take a backward step from that.

“We need innovative solutions to smash the business model of the people smuggling gangs, which is why we formed this partnership with Rwanda.

“The Court of Appeal have been clear that the policy of relocating asylum seekers to a safe third country for the processing of their claims is in line with the Refugee Convention.

“While we are disappointed with their ruling in relation to Rwanda’s asylum system, I will be seeking permission to appeal this.

“I remain fully committed to this policy as does the Rwandan government.”

Rwandan government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, reacted to the ruling: “While this is ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system, we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees.

"Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world and we have been recognized by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees."

Suella Braverman Rwanda deaal

Suella Braverman and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs Vincent Biruta


Makolo added: "As a society, and as a government, we have built a safe, secure, dignified environment, in which migrants and refugees have equal rights and opportunities as Rwandans. Everyone relocated here under this partnership will benefit from this.

“Rwanda remains fully committed to making this partnership work. The broken global migration system is failing to protect the vulnerable, and empowering criminal smuggling gangs at an immeasurable human cost.

"When the migrants do arrive, we will welcome them and provide them with the support they’ll need to build new lives in Rwanda."

The charity Freedom from Torture, an intervener in the High Court case, commented on the decision: "We are delighted that the appeal verdict has affirmed what the caring people of this country already knew: the UK government’s ‘cash for humans’ deal with Rwanda is not only deeply immoral, it flies in the face of the laws of this country."

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