Rwanda-UK Migration Deal – Kigali Challenges UK Supreme Court’s ‘Unsafe Third Country’ Claim

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court decision on the Rwanda-UK Migration and Economic Development Partnership “is ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system,” the Spokesperson of the government of Rwanda, Yolande Makolo, said on Wednesday, November 15.

But she refuted claims that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees, in terms of refoulement.

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On Wednesday, UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the plan is unlawful because there are “substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers would face a real risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement to their country of origin if they were removed to Rwanda.”

Refoulement refers to the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.

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Signed in 2022 between Rwanda and the UK, the plan concerns all migrants and asylum seekers who arrived in the UK illegally from January 1, 2022, aiming at relocating them to Rwanda where they will be “empowered through different initiatives.”

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Since it was signed, the deal has gone through several court hearings, the latest of which was the one in the Supreme Court, filed by the UK Home Secretary, as an appeal against the lower court’s decision that was not in favour of the plan.

Rwanda committed to its international obligations

Delivering the ruling, Lord Robert John Reed, the President of the UK’s Supreme Court announced that the court unanimously dismissed the Home Secretary’s appeal, and upheld the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the Rwanda policy was unlawful.

Makolo said: “Rwanda and the UK have been working together to ensure the integration of relocated asylum seekers into Rwandan society. Rwanda is committed to its international obligations, and we have been recognized by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees.”

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“Throughout this legal process we’ve been busy continuing to deliver progress for Rwandans, and working together with international partners to solve some of the biggest challenges that Africa and the wider world face. We take our humanitarian responsibilities seriously, and will continue to live up to them.”

According to the United Nations, more than 2,500 migrants died or went missing this year while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.

The UK-Rwanda partnership was referred to by Rwanda as “a bold new partnership” which takes an innovative approach to addressing the global migration crisis that involves incentive structures which empower criminal gangs and endanger innocent lives.

The UK Supreme Court noted that it accepts that the Rwandan government entered into the MEDP (Migration and Economic Development Partnership) in good faith, that it has incentives to ensure that it is adhered to, and that monitoring arrangements provide a further safeguard.

“Nevertheless, the evidence shows that there are substantial grounds for believing that there is a real risk that asylum claims will not be determined properly, and that asylum seekers will therefore be at risk of being returned directly or indirectly to their country of origin,” part of the statement regarding the ruling read.

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