Tory plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are in tatters after the Supreme Court ruled them unlawful.
Ministers wanted the power to immediately detain “illegal immigrants” and put them on a plane to the east African country—without assessing their asylum claims.
But on Wednesday five judges decided the scheme contained a “real risk” that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would be returned to their own country. They could face ill-treatment and even death if sent back.
Lord Reed said that would constitute “refoulement”—a legal term for the forcible return of asylum seekers to a country where they could face persecution. He said this would breach both British and international law.
The judges noted Rwanda’s poor human rights record. In recent times, police have had to warn Rwandan nationals living in Britain of “credible plans by the Rwandan government to kill them,” said Lord Reed.
The court was also concerned about Rwanda’s failed asylum system. The country routinely rejects 100 percent of claims from countries in conflict zones—including Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. And, judges concluded that Rwanda had recently broken a similar agreement to handle asylum seekers that had fled to Israel. Rwanda had deported many claimants back to their country of origins.
The comprehensive decision is a blow to Rishi Sunak’s “stop the boats” policy. It comes just a day after sacked home secretary Suella Braverman wrote a scathing attack on his government, insisting it was too weak to drive the policy forward. The racist ex-minister told her old boss that he had adopted “wishful thinking” to “avoid having to make hard choices”.
Braverman, a leading figure on the right of the party, had previously described delivering the Rwanda plan as her “dream” and “obsession”.
Accepting the likelihood of the court ruling against the Rwanda plan, she added Sunak would have “wasted a year” on the flagship law “only to arrive back at square one”.
“Worse than this, your magical thinking—believing that you can will your way through this without upsetting polite opinion—has meant you have failed to prepare any sort of credible Plan B,” she wrote.
The Tories were quick to rally round their racist policy. New home secretary James Cleverly announced that he planned to change the agreement with Rwanda into a treaty. This, he said, would have extra clauses to stop asylum seekers from being returned home – and therefore get around the courts.
However, with an election likely next year, time is running out for the key Tory policy. The party’s rabid right was quickly on the attack.
Tory vice-chair Lee Anderson demanded the government “ignore the law” and send asylum seekers to Rwanda anyway. “People are fed up in this country,” he huffed.
“They’re fed up with being taken for a ride and paying their taxes to people who have no right to be here and are criminals. The government needs to show our leadership and send them back the same day.”
Other right wing Tory MPs are now piling pressure on Sunak. They want him to support a law stating that the European Convention of Human Rights and the Refugees Convention do not apply when it comes to the Rwanda policy.
But Sunak and others in the ruling class worry that doing that would do immense damage to Britain’s international standing—and make it harder to implement its imperialist policies.
Disgracefully, Labour attacked the Tories from the right. Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said their record was, “Wasting time, wasting money and letting the country down.”
She demanded more deportations, calling for ”a proper returns unit in place so that we can end hotel use. Instead of that cost going up from £6 million to £8 million a day on his watch, let us end hotel use and save the taxpayer £2 billion.”
Campaigning organisation Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) celebrated the government’s defeat. “We were at the heart of a long running mass #StopRwanda campaign throughout last year to oppose the plans,” it said.
“The campaign was a part of the wider pressure mounted consistently on the government. It stood in solidarity with those who took direct action to prevent Rwanda deportations. And it supported the legal campaign led by PCS union, Care4Calais and others to challenge the policy in the courts.”
But campaigners also had a warning. Weyman Bennett from SUTR said, “At a time sharply polarised by crises and where the government wants to use racist scapegoating and division to divert the blame, we must celebrate these victories.
“But we must also intensify the anti-racist resistance and build a mass movement that can adequately prevent the threat of racism, division and hate, and the rise of the new far right”.
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