A Supreme Court ruling on the UKs Rwanda policy need not lead to conflict with the ECHR

From: Chatham House
Published: Tue Nov 14 2023


The prime minister's ambition for ‘creative Europe-wide solutions' to small boat crossings will not progress if his government attack the European Court of Human Rights.

This week the UK's highest court will give its ruling on the lawfulness of the government's ‘Rwanda policy'. Five judges will scrutinize whether ten asylum-seekers can be removed to Rwanda, where their claims would be dealt with under the Rwandan asylum system.

The Supreme Court is examining the case after a Court of Appeal two-to-one majority decision in June. This ruled that assurances given by Rwanda's government, whilst given in good faith, were insufficient to ensure that there is no real risk to the asylum-seekers - the risk being that they could be wrongly returned to countries where they could face persecution or other inhumane treatment.

The Supreme Court hearing took place between 9 to 11 October, with the judgment expected on 15 November. It is impossible to predict which way the court will rule.

But it is possible to say what the court's decision will not do: it will not rule on the principle of removing asylum seekers to a safe third country. A large part of the case turns instead on the credibility of assurances given by the Rwandan government about the safety of asylum-seekers it receives.

In this respect, the case is reminiscent of those concerning the deportation of terrorist suspects, where previous governments have also had to ensure they received credible assurances from the receiving state.

Neither will the decision delve into the political merits of the Rwanda policy: the court will seek to stick to the facts and law relevant to the case.

The case will also not affect the many other practical issues beyond human rights and legal concerns which are preventing migrants being removed to Rwanda or elsewhere, including the UK's own significant issues processing its backlog of existing applicants and lack of agreements with other countries.

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Company: Chatham House

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