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Updated Nov 15, 2023, 8:31am EST
UK
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Semafor Signals

UK Supreme Court strikes down Rwanda deportation plan

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shakes hands with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at Downing Street in London, Britain May 4, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
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The U.K.’s top court has ruled against a government plan to send some asylum-seekers to Rwanda, calling it unlawful.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed the proposals, a key part of his immigration platform, would deter people from crossing into the U.K. in small boats via the English Channel.

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In his ruling, Supreme Court President Lord Robert Reed said that Rwanda has a poor human rights record and there was a “real risk” it could send asylum-seekers back to the places they had fled.

Sunak has promised to revive the plan, saying he is already working closely with counterparts in Kigali on a new treaty. “We will finalize that in light of today’s judgement,” Sunak told the House of Commons.

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The court’s decision arrives as Sunak comes under increasing pressure from the right-wing bloc of his party. Earlier this week, the prime minister shuffled key members out of his cabinet — including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a leading proponent of the Rwanda plan. In a scathing resignation letter prior to the ruling, Braverman called Sunak “weak,” accusing him of failing to deliver on immigration. Sunak now faces further divisions within his party, Bloomberg notes.

Under the proposal, asylum-seekers would have been sent to “Hope Hostel” in Rwanda’s capital, a premise which was controversially cleared of residents 18 months ago. The move left dozens of men homeless, all of them survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Some had resided at the hostel for eight years, but were pushed out just days after former British Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the deportation agreement.

The plan was an expensive disaster for the Conservative Party. The U.K. paid £140 million ($175 million) for the deal, which was announced last year. No deportation flights have ever departed for Rwanda, the first one canceled minutes before takeoff following a legal challenge. An economic assessment of the plan estimated that moving asylum-seekers to Rwanda would have cost £63,000 per person more than keeping them in the U.K.

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