Court: UK plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda is legal

Dec 18, 2022, 9:21 AM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 9:11 am
Stand Up To Racism campaigners hold banners outside the High Court in London, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022...

Stand Up To Racism campaigners hold banners outside the High Court in London, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. Judges at Britain’s High Court say the U.K. government’s controversial plan to send asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda is legal. But two judges also ruled that the government failed to consider the circumstances of the individuals it tried to deport. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s High Court ruled Monday that a plan to send asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda is legal but the government must consider the circumstances of each case before deporting anyone, a judgment that sets the controversial policy up for further legal battles.

Several asylum-seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union filed lawsuits to stop the Conservative government acting on a deportation agreement with Rwanda that is intended to deter migrants from trying to reach the U.K. on risky journeys across the English Channel.

The U.K. plans to send some migrants who arrive in the U.K. as stowaways or in small boats to the East African country, where their asylum claims would be processed. Those granted asylum would stay in Rwanda rather than returning to the U.K.

“The court has concluded that it is lawful for the government to make arrangements for relocating asylum-seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom,” said Clive Lewis, one of two justices who made the ruling.

The judges said the policy did not breach Britain’s obligations under the U.N. Refugee Convention or other international agreements. But they added that the government “must decide if there is anything about each person’s particular circumstances” which meant they should not be sent to Rwanda, and had failed to do that for the eight claimants in the case.

U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who has called the Channel crossings an “invasion of our southern coast,” responded to the ruling by saying it “thoroughly vindicates the Rwanda partnership.”

“The sooner it is up and running, the sooner we will break the business model of these evil gangs” of people-smugglers, Braverman told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

The immigration spokesperson for the opposition Labour Party, Yvette Cooper, slammed the plan as “unworkable, unethical (and) extremely expensive.”

Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said the court ruling was “a positive step in our quest to contribute innovative, long-term solutions to the global migration crisis.”

But Rwandan opposition lawmaker Frank Habineza said it was wrong to send migrants to Rwanda, a densely populated nation with limited resources.

“This is not sustainable,” Habineza told The Associated Press.

Refugee groups said they would consult their lawyers about challenging the ruling. The judges set another hearing in the case for Jan. 16.

Enver Solomon, head of the charity Refugee Council, said the Rwanda plan was “a cruel policy that will cause great human suffering.”

Paul O’Connor of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents border staff, called the government’s policy “morally reprehensible.”

More than 44,000 people who crossed the Channel in small boats have arrived in Britain this year, and several have died in the attempt, including four last week when a boat capsized in freezing weather.

The British government argues that its deportation policy will deter criminal gangs that ferry migrants on hazardous journeys across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Human rights groups say it is immoral and inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) to a country they don’t want to live in. They also cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record, including allegations of torture and killings of government opponents.

The U.K. government has argued that while Rwanda was the site of a genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in 1994, the country has since built a reputation for stability and economic progress. Critics say that stability comes at the cost of political repression.

Britain has already paid Rwanda 140 million pounds ($170 million) under the deal struck in April, but no one has yet been sent to the country. The U.K. was forced to cancel the first deportation flight at the last minute in June after the European Court of Human Rights ruled the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm.”

The U.K. receives fewer asylum-seekers than many European nations, including Germany, France and Italy, but thousands of migrants from around the world travel to northern France each year in hopes of crossing the Channel, and the number has grown rapidly in the past few years.

A surge in arrivals and a U.K. bureaucratic backlog, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, has led to many Channel migrants languishing in overcrowded processing centers, where there have been outbreaks of diphtheria and other diseases.

The government wants to deport all migrants who arrive by unauthorized routes, and aims to strike Rwanda-style deals with other countries. Critics point out there are few authorized routes for seeking asylum in the U.K., other than those set up for people from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.

Christina Marriott, director of policy at the British Red Cross, said “the offshoring of human beings” would “do little to prevent people from risking their lives to reach safety.”

“The government should instead take action to provide safe routes, ensure timely and correct decisions are made once people are in system, and that people are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process,” she said.


Ignatius Ssuuna in Kigali, Rwanda contributed to this story.


Follow AP’s coverage of global migration at

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 201...
Associated Press

Google hopes ‘Bard’ will outsmart ChatGPT, Microsoft in AI

Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard," a conversational service apparently aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft.
17 hours ago
FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Se...
Associated Press

Boeing plans to cut about 2,000 finance and HR jobs in 2023

Boeing plans to make staffing cuts in the aerospace company's finance and human resources departments in 2023, with a loss of around 2,000 jobs
17 hours ago
(Jennifer Bakos via AP)...
Associated Press

1 missing, 2 rescued from crab boat off Washington coast

A crew member remains missing and two others were rescued from crab boat that sank near Willapa Bay in southwest Washington on Sunday evening, according to the Coast Guard.
17 hours ago
child marriages...
Associated Press

Proposed bill would pay incarcerated workers minimum wage

A Washington state lawmaker who has spent time in prison wants the state to pay incarcerated workers minimum wage for doing their jobs.
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Faith leaders urge independent review of Alabama executions

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — More than 170 pastors and other faith leaders on Tuesday urged Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to authorize an independent review of execution procedures, as Oklahoma and Tennessee did after a slate of failed lethal injections in those states. The group applauded Ivey for taking the “bold and necessary step” of ordering […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Trudeau says Canadian health care isn’t living up to promise

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada’s health care system isn’t living up to its promise, and he plans to add billions more in funding. Trudeau said wait times in emergency departments have become dangerously long, people are waiting too long for essential surgeries and millions of Canadians are without […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Court: UK plan to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda is legal