Rwanda Judgment: Supreme Court unanimously rules Rwanda policy is unlawful

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Sonali Naik KCAdrian BerryMark SymesEva Doerr and Isaac Ricca-Richardson, of the Garden Court Chambers Public Law Team, acted for AS (Iran), instructed by Paul Turner and Iain Palmer of Barnes Harrild and Dyer Solicitors.

David Sellwood, of the Garden Court Chambers Public Law Team, is part of the team who acted for RM (Iran), instructed by Daniel Merriman and Tim Davies of Wilson Solicitors.

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The Supreme Court has unanimously agreed with the majority of the Court of Appeal that the government's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be determined there is unlawful.

The court has reiterated that the plan breaches domestic law and multiple international conventions to which the UK is a party, including the Refugee Convention, United Nations Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights.

President of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed announced:

"It may be that the principle of non-refoulement also forms part of customary international law. The United Kingdom has subscribed to this view, along with the other states parties to the Refugee Convention, in the 2001 Declaration of States Parties to the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The fourth recital to the preamble to the declaration acknowledged the continuing relevance and resilience of the international regime of rights and principles established for the protection of refugees, “including at its core the principle of non-refoulement, whose applicability is embedded in customary international law”. The significance of non-refoulment being a principle of customary international law is that it is consequently binding upon all states in international law, regardless of whether they are party to any treaties which give it effect. However, as we have not been addressed on this matter, we do not rely on it in our reasoning.

The principle of non-refoulement is therefore given effect not only by the ECHR but also by other international conventions to which the United Kingdom is party. It is a core principle of international law, to which the United Kingdom government has repeatedly committed itself on the international stage, consistently with this country’s reputation for developing and upholding the rule of law.
The principle of non-refoulement has also been given effect in our domestic law by a number of statutes enacted by Parliament. 
Asylum seekers are thus protected against refoulement not only by the Human Rights Act but also by provisions in the 1993 Act, the 2002 Act and the 2004 Act, under which parliament has given effect to the Refugee Convention as well as the ECHR."

In October 2023, the three-day hearing took place at the Supreme Court to determine whether the UK government's plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful. 

The Supreme Court hearing followed the Court of Appeal ruling in June 2023, which found that there are shortcomings in the asylum system in Rwanda.

The judgment has been widely covered in the press, including BBC NewsGuardianFinancial TimesIndependentSky News and many more.

Click here to download the judgment

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