It never rains but pours for Rishi Sunak. After a difficult few weeks for the Prime Minister, the Court of Appeal has this morning ruled that the Rwanda scheme is unlawful. The ruling means that the previous decision of the High Court that the scheme is lawful and Rwanda is a safe third country is reversed – with the removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda unlawful ‘until the deficiencies in its asylum processes are corrected’.
Today’s decision was split – with the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Underhill concluding the policy is not lawful as there is a ‘real risk’ asylum seekers could be returned to their home country. However, the Lord Chief Justice sided with the original High Court ruling that Rwanda is a safe third country.
The ruling is undoubtedly a blow to the government (though ministers point to the fact that the Lord Chief Justice backed the High Court ruling). As I first reported, the best case scenario in the Home Office was to have a flight take off to Rwanda with asylum seekers by September.
However, this relied upon the Court of Appeal upholding the High Court judgement and then the case not making it to the Supreme Court. Instead, there will now be a much longer wait for any such flight. The legal battle looks set to continue for some time – with the case likely to now be heard in the Supreme Court, potentially in October. Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the government will now challenge the ruling in the Supreme Court – saying he ‘fundamentally disagrees’ with the Court of Appeal verdict.
The ruling comes as the government deals with hurdles on the illegal immigration Bill in the House of Lords. Last night, peers voted to add safeguards for modern slavery victims and unaccompanied child migrants.