Judges say Rwanda cannot be considered a safe third country, after the scheme was heavily criticised by rights groups.
A British court has ruled that the government’s controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful as the African nation cannot be considered a safe third country.
In a major setback for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has pledged to deter people from arriving across the Channel in small boats, three Court of Appeal judges on Thursday said the “removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda” would be “unlawful”.
“The deficiencies in the asylum system in Rwanda are such that there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that persons sent to Rwanda will be returned to their home countries where they face persecution or other inhumane treatment,” judge Ian Burnett said, but added that he, himself, disagreed with the other two judges on this point.
The United Kingdom government has been planning to deport asylum seekers to the East African country as part of a 120 million pound ($148m) deal to deter people from crossing the English Channel from France in small boats.
Asylum Aid director Alison Pickup said many of her clients were breathing a sigh of relief.
“Some of them have experienced torture, they’ve had very traumatic journeys, and have been waiting for over a year to find out if they will be able to make a case in the UK – or if they will be sent to Rwanda, a country they know nothing about,” Pickup told Al Jazeera.
She added that the ruling will “hopefully give them that reassurance of safety”.
The government has said it will appeal against the decision.
The Rwandan government said that while the matter was one for the British courts, it took exception to the judges’ conclusions.
“Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world and we have been recognized by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees,” said government spokesperson Yolande Makolo.