Image above: Workers and volunteers at West London Welcome celebrate Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling
Supreme Court ruling that Rwanda deportations would be unlawful comes as a huge relief to West London Welcome
West London Welcome, the refugee charity based in Hammersmith, has described their “relief and joy” after the UK’s highest court rejected the Government’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, saying the policy had caused “nothing but fear” amongst the people they support.
Five judges on the Supreme Court unanimously upheld an appeal court ruling which found there was a real risk of deported refugees having their claims in the east African country wrongly assessed or being returned to their country of origin to face persecution.
Lord Reed, the President of the Supreme Court, highlighted damning evidence from the UNHCR, underscoring the failure of a similar deportation agreement between Israel and Rwanda.
In a statement issued after the judgement on Wednesday, West London Welcome said:
“For those seeking asylum in West London, the hostile environment in its many forms continues, but today they are breathing relief after months of uncertainty and anxiety around the Rwanda plan.
“Since last year we have practically and emotionally supported a number of our asylum-seeking community members after they received letters from the Home Office suggesting they could be removed to another country, such as Rwanda, to have their asylum claims considered there instead.
“The Rwanda plan has caused nothing but fear amongst the people we support, cost the UK millions, and put huge pressure on legal aid lawyers and frontline NGOs like ourselves to navigate and support people through an uncertain legal situation.”
The verdict challenges a cornerstone of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s strategy to curb small boat crossings across the English Channel. The Government’s £140 million Rwanda scheme was meant to act as a deterrent. Refugee charities, including West London Welcome have vehemently rejected the assumption that it would.
The Government should now rethink its strategy for dealing with asylum seekers said West London Welcome’s director and founder Joanne MacInnes:
“Today’s decision provides the Government with an opportunity to take a new path on asylum policy. The Supreme Court and the majority of people in Britain are clear: those seeking asylum must have their rights protected.
“We call on the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to start anew, reverse their hostile environment and create humane policies that enable people seeking sanctuary to experience a just, functioning asylum system.”
She realises however their advice is unlikely to be heeded and that there are strong voices in the Conservative Party urging the Prime Minister to push ahead with its policy.
Yesterday Suella Braverman published an incendiary letter after she was sacked from her job as Home Secretary on Monday. In it she accused the Prime Minister of reneging on agreements to fortify UK law against legal challenges under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act.
The Prime Minister has since said he would not let “a foreign court” stop flights to Rwanda. Rishi Sunak said he would table emergency legislation in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, which would define Rwanda as a ‘safe’ country for asylum seekers to be deported to.
Image above: Director/Founder of refugee charity West London Welcome – Joanne MacInnes, West London Welcome
“Difficult to understand” way forward for Illegal Migration Act, says West London Welcome
“We know the Government will still try to press on with the Rwanda plan regardless of today’s ruling” said Joanne.
“The Government has been trying to fully implement its Illegal Migration Act, which seeks to prevent those entering the UK via informal means, such as by small boat, from applying for asylum here, and send people to ‘safe third countries’ to have their asylum claims processed.
“Rwanda was supposed to be this ‘safe third country’, yet given the Supreme Court’s decision, it’s difficult to understand how the Illegal Migration Act can now be fully implemented.
“The Rwanda Plan and Illegal Migration Act must be scrapped in their entirety, and if this Government truly want to ‘stop the boats’, they must urgently create safe routes to the UK in order that people do not need to risk their lives to find safety and live in dignity.”