Braverman lashes out after Court of Appeal judges declare Rwanda asylum policy unlawful
The Home Secretary lashed out at “phoney humanitarianism” hindering efforts to stop Channel crossings as the Government lost the latest court battle over its plans to send migrants to Rwanda.
Suella Braverman claimed the system was “rigged against the British people” after the Court of Appeal ruled the multimillion-pound deal – which would see asylum seekers deported to the east African nation – was unlawful.
Ministers are braced for a fresh clash in the courts over the policy as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he “fundamentally” disagreed with the decision and confirmed the Government would seek to appeal against the ruling to the Supreme Court.
In a majority decision on Thursday, Court of Appeal judges overturned an earlier High Court ruling which found Rwanda could be considered a “safe third country”.
The decision is the latest setback in Mr Sunak’s bid to “stop the boats” – one of his flagship pledges.
Ms Braverman said she remained “fully committed” to the policy and, despite the ruling, insisted she still had “every confidence” in the plan while stressing that Rwanda was a safe country.
When asked if she blamed “lefty lawyers” or “the blob” amid the defeat, she told broadcasters: “The system is rigged against the British people, it’s as simple as that.
“It’s why we’re changing the laws through our Illegal Migration Bill.”
She then doubled down on her claims in the Commons, telling MPs that “phoney humanitarianism” was holding back plans to tackle Channel crossings.
But Labour said the decision showed the Government’s efforts were “completely unravelling”.
Sir Keir Starmer slammed the policy as a “headline-grabbing gimmick”, telling the PA news agency during a visit to North Yorkshire: “What the court’s judgment shows is they’ve spent that £140 million of taxpayers’ money without even doing the basics to see whether the scheme was really fit for purpose.”
His deputy, Angela Rayner, said there had been “more Conservative home secretaries in Rwanda than we’ve had asylum seekers sent there” while shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the Commons the policy was a “total con on the British people”.
In the 161-page ruling following the appeal heard in April, Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill concluded “deficiencies” in the asylum system in Rwanda mean there is a “real risk” asylum seekers could be returned to their home country and face persecution or other inhumane treatment when they may have a good claim for asylum.
“Our conclusion on the safety of Rwanda issue means that the Rwanda policy must be declared unlawful,” Sir Geoffrey added.
Mr Sunak said: “While I respect the court I fundamentally disagree with their conclusions.
“I strongly believe the Rwandan government has provided the assurances necessary to ensure there is no real risk that asylum-seekers relocated under the Rwanda policy would be wrongly returned to third countries – something that the Lord Chief Justice agrees with.”
The Rwandan Government said it took “issue” with the Court of Appeal’s ruling and insisted it was “one of the safest countries in the world”.
Downing Street refused to say whether it still believes any migrants will be sent to Rwanda before the next election.
Handing down the decision during a short hearing in London, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett stressed the court reached its conclusion on the law and took “no view whatever” about the political merits of the policy.
But, in the judgment, he branded Government claims the plan could see thousands of people sent to Rwanda “political hyperbole”, instead concluding it may only amount to hundreds.
Ms Braverman later told MPs Rwanda had the capacity needed for the plans.
So far this year 11,279 people have been detected crossing the Channel, according to provisional Home Office figures.
More than 50,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel since the Government signed the Rwanda deal over a year ago.
Then-home secretary Priti Patel signed what she called the “world-first” agreement on April 14. There have been 51,206 migrants recorded making the journey between April 15 2022 and June 28 2023, according to PA analysis of Government figures.
Meanwhile the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill – aimed at beefing up powers to tackle the problem – has suffered a series of defeats during its passage through the House of Lords.
The flagship legislation, which has already been passed by the Commons, saw four Government defeats in the Lords on Wednesday.
The latest court ruling comes as a critical report was published by the chief inspector of borders and immigration who concluded there was no “single version of the truth” in the Home Office as part of an assessment on its work to remove foreign national offenders.
Another report, from the Council of Europe, found migrants who were taken to the Manston processing centre in Kent last year may have been exposed to “inhuman and degrading treatment”. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture said “agitated” arrivals were “handcuffed, in a small, box-like, fenced-in area” in the back of a van.
The court judgment is also just days after the Home Office’s own figures showed the Government could spend £169,000 on every asylum seeker forcibly removed to a third country such as Rwanda.
Nearly two in five people would need to be deterred from crossing the Channel in small boats for the Illegal Migration Bill to break even, the economic impact assessment published on Monday said.
The £169,000 cost includes flights and detention, as well as a £105,000 per person payment to third countries, though the sum is an estimate not based on the true cost of the “commercially sensitive” Rwanda scheme.
The document said the asylum system could cost £32 million a day by the end of 2026 if recent trends continue without the reduction of hotel usage.
Campaigners welcomed the appeal ruling, with charity Asylum Aid which brought the challenge alongside several asylum seekers, describing the decision as a “vindication of the importance of the Rule of Law and basic fairness when fundamental rights are at stake”.
There is a “deliberately tight timetable” to decide the consequences of the ruling so any bids for a Supreme Court challenge “can be decided promptly”, Lord Burnett said.
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