On November 15, human rights won when the U.K. Supreme Court ruled the Rwanda scheme unlawful, stating that it is not a safe third country for the government to send migrants and refugees.
This ruling will cause a “major blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s pledge to stop people arriving in small boats,” reports Reuters. The judgment also demonstrates that the Rwanda scheme is a failed attempt to distract from the government’s duty to find real solutions that address the causes of people fleeing home in search of safety.
The Rwanda scheme and its risk to trafficking survivors
The Rwanda plan was created in April 2022 and was designed to deter asylum seekers from making a dangerous journey across the Channel from Europe in small boats to England’s southern border. Under the scheme, anyone who arrived in Britain illegally faced deportation to Rwanda. However, by June 2022, the first deportation flight was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights, barring any removals until the conclusion of legal action, which has now concluded as of Wednesday with a unanimous rejection by the Supreme Court.
The scheme is part of the Illegal Migration Act, a legislative body containing anti-migrant provisions as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s “Stop the Boats” campaign. The recklessness and cruelty of the scheme leave trafficking survivors who enter the U.K. via “irregular routes” without any access to support or modern slavery protections. Instead of providing safe routes and working to support trafficking survivors on arrival, the plan to deport them to Rwanda further endangers them, given the country’s failure to uphold international standards for human rights.
A human rights win, but what is next?
While this decision is a celebrated one, there is concern that the government will continue its efforts to detain and forcibly deport people to countries where they are at risk of harm and human rights violations. Everyone at imminent risk of deportation to Rwanda is no longer under urgent risk of removal. Supreme Court President Robert Reed said that changes need to be made to prevent anyone from being returned to their home country, but those changes are not yet in place.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants warns,
“It’s important to remember that the judgment is limited to whether Rwanda is a safe country – and not the lawfulness of the policy in principle.”
The International Organization for Migration’s statement on the U.K. Supreme Court ruling states,
“We encourage the UK and other Member states to look at solutions that address the underlying factors that drive people to leave home, to offer expanded safe and legal pathways for migration, and to build partnerships with governments along the migration route.”
Freedom United welcomes this ruling and firmly urges the U.K. to implement safe migration routes because that is the most effective way to protect migrants and prevent human trafficking. Sign our petition to call for genuine anti-trafficking immigration policies.