Government plans to send migrants to Rwanda ruled unlawful by Court of Appeal

Today's court hearing wasn't just about the law, but about the next general election, as ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand and Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana report

The Court of Appeal has ruled government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as unlawful, with judges reaching the verdict it is not a safe third country.

Judges overruled a previous High Court decision that declared the Home Office's controversial deportation scheme lawful, with the government confirming it will now appeal to the Supreme Court to fight for the plans.

Rishi Sunak said he "fundamentally disagrees" with the judges and insisted he "will do whatever is necessary" to send migrants to the east African country, while the Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she remains "fully committed" to the policy.

Both had hoped to see flights to Rwanda setting off as soon as possible, with the timeline now very much in doubt.

At a hearing in April, lawyers for the group of asylum seekers, who were given permission to appeal the previous ruling, argued the High Court "showed excessive deference" to the Home Office assurances that Rwanda would protect relocated asylum seekers.

They told Lord Burnett, Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill that material provided by Rwanda "lacked credibility, consisting of blanket denials and clear contradictions".

Lawyers for the Home Office opposed their appeal, telling the court the Rwandan government had "indicated a clear willingness to co-operate with international monitoring mechanisms" with "reciprocal obligations with strong incentives for compliance".

But speaking at the hearing on Thursday, 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."

Meanwhile, Rwanda's government has insisted it is "one of the safest countries in the world", and the home secretary accused the UK's current system as "rigged against the British people".

Speaking in the House of Commons, Ms Braverman said: "The British people will no longer indulge the polite fiction that we have a duty or infinite capacity to support everyone in the world who is fleeing persecution, nor anyone that would simply like to come here to improve their lot and succeeds in making it to our shores.

"That abuse is unfair on local communities forced to absorb thousands of illegal arrivals and the pressure on public services and social cohesion that this entails.

"It is unfair on taxpayers who foot the hotel bill currently running to £6 million a day, that could rise to £32 million a day by 2026, for people who have broken into this country.

"It is unfair on those who play by the rules and who want to see an asylum system that is fit for purpose, that our current system is exploited and turned against us by those with no right to be in the UK."

'This judgement is disappointing for the majority of the British people who have repeatedly voted for controlled migration', the home secretary says

While on a visit to Selby, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the government's policy as a "gimmick" and said Ministers "didn't even do the basics to make sure that it was fit for purpose".

He told broadcasters: "We have to get a grip. Labour's got a grip. We've got a plan to deal with this. The government has got absolutely no plan, no clue."

The shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described the Rwanda policy as "unworkable, unethical and extortionate, a costly and damaging distraction from the urgent action the Government should be taking".

A Court of Appeal judge rules Rwanda is 'not a safe third country'

The Court of Appeal's ruling is the latest setback in Rishi Sunak's efforts to "stop the boats" - one of his five key priorities for the year.

So far this year 11,279 people have been detected making the trip across the Channel, according to provisional Home Office figures, while the Government's Illegal Migration Bill has suffered a number of defeats in the House of Lords.

It also comes days after the Home Office’s own figures showed the government could spend £169,000 on every asylum seeker forcibly removed to a third country such as Rwanda.

But campaigners have renewed calls on Ms Braverman to abandon the plans entirely, describing them as "unworkable" and an "unethical fever dream of a policy".

Speaking outside the court on Thursday, the charity Asylum Aid said it was "delighted" by the overall judgement but may well appeal to the Supreme Court on some of the appeal points rejected by judges.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors, which represented seven of the asylum seekers who were due to be on the first flight to Rwanda in June last year, said Government officials "were well aware of the crucial deficiencies in Rwanda's asylum system from the inception of this policy" and ministers "glossed over and failed to properly examine the adequacy of Rwanda's asylum system." Yasmine Ahmed, UK director of Human Rights Watch, said: "This verdict is some rare good news in an otherwise bleak landscape for human rights in the UK. Hopefully, it will be respected by the government and we can consign this cruel and inhumane proposal to the history books.

"The Home Secretary should now abandon this unworkable and unethical fever dream of a policy and focus her efforts on fixing our broken and neglected migration system.

"This verdict presents the Government with an opportunity to change course. Rather than treating human beings like cargo it can ship elsewhere, it should be focusing on ending the hostile environment towards refugees and asylum seekers."

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