Jun 29, 2023, 1:48pm EDT

Making sense of a UK court’s rejection of Sunak’s plan to fly migrants to Rwanda

Sunak addresses Parliament.
UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

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The News

One of the U.K.‘s top courts ruled Thursday that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful.

The Court of Appeal said Rwanda is not a safe place to send the migrants, prolonging the legal battle over the controversial immigration plan.

We’ve curated insightful analysis and opinions on what the court’s decision means for the future of the plan.

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  • The court’s decision deals a major blow to Sunak, given that the Rwanda plan has become a centerpiece of his government’s immigration strategy which aims to stop small boat crossings from France to the U.K. But Sunak is seeking to appeal Thursday’s ruling to the country’s Supreme Court. — Financial Times
  • In ruling against the government’s plan, the court feared that refugees could have their asylum claims wrongly refused in Rwanda, citing the lack of safeguards and independence in the country’s asylum and legal system. It also cited opposition to the plan from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which said that the majority of refugees in Rwanda ”live in camps with limited access to economic opportunities.” — The Guardian
  • There was “always something odd” about the idea and how it was pitched, Jay Elwes writes in The New European. On one hand, it was promoted as a way to deter migrants from coming to the U.K. At the same time, the government built up Rwanda as a safe and welcoming place where asylum seekers would thrive.
  • Many members of Sunak’s own party have poo-pooed the Rwanda plan from the start,” leading to an incoherent message and strategy, Patrick O’Flynn writes in The Spectator. “The stench of a more general political death suddenly surrounds Sunak.”
  • Rwanda was on board with the plan in which the U.K. would pay the country about $152 million to fund development and to process the migrants. During a Semafor summit last year, Rwanda President Paul Kagame said the “U.K. is the one that approached us. ... When that [court case] is sorted out, we shall have them, we will process them, and these people will go wherever they want to go.”
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Know More

Under the plan, which was first announced in April 2022, the U.K. would pay over $100 million to fly tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would have their asylum claims processed and receive access to opportunities including education and training, officials said.

A court ruled late last year that the plan was lawful. U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman said at the time that being sent to Rwanda is “not a punishment” for the refugees, “but an innovative way of addressing a major problem.”