Houses of Parliament

In 2022, the UK government announced plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for the processing of their refugee claims. After lengthy court battles, the Supreme Court ruled that Rwanda cannot be considered a safe country for this purpose, thereby dismantling the core elements of the government’s plans for tackling the small boats crossing the Channel.

International protections for refugees have at their heart the principle of non-refoulement: that people must not be returned to a country if that would expose them to serious harm. The Supreme Court found that the evidence provided by the UN’s specialist refugee agency showed that asylum seekers removed to Rwanda would be at serious risk of ill-treatment and refoulement.

In the wake of this ruling, some have questioned the future of the UK’s Human Rights Act. However, the key principles around refugee protection, including non-refoulement and the importance of full assessments of asylum claims, are not only protected by the Human Rights Act but many other international and domestic treaties. Altering or erasing the Human Rights Act would not diminish these legal requirements.

Ultimately, the Rwanda Plan was a distraction from the real problems. After years of mismanagement, the UK’s asylum system is in disarray. More than 175,000 people in the UK are awaiting a decision on their asylum claims. This record-level backlog costs the British taxpayer millions of pounds every day. Rather than spending money on doomed media spectacles, the government would be better off spending money to ensure good quality, timely asylum decisions.