‘The system is rigged against the British people’: Home Secretary Suella Braverman says ‘we need to change our laws to stop the boats’ as she slams Court of Appeal ruling that Rwanda deportation plan is unlawful
- Three judges agreed by a majority of two to one that Rwanda scheme was illegal
- READ MORE – Lords force major changes to Migration Bill in another blow to PM
Home Secretary Suella Braverman today suggested the immigration system is ‘rigged against the British people’ after the Court of Appeal declared the Rwanda scheme unlawful.
Three judges agreed by a majority of two to one that Rwanda was not ‘a safe third’ country, putting a halt to plans to deport Channel migrants to the East African nation so they could claim asylum there.
The decision is a major blow to the Government’s flagship Illegal Migration Bill and its pledge of ‘stop the boats’.
After echoing the Prime Minister’s vow to appeal this morning’s ruling in the Supreme Court, Ms Braverman 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, it’s why we’re rolling out a ground-breaking partnership with Rwanda which we believe is lawful, with a country which we believe is safe.
‘So, we need to change the system, we need to change our laws, that’s how we’re going to stop the boats.’
Suella Braverman today suggested the current immigration system is ‘rigged against the British people’
Asylum campaigners have hailed the court’s decision as a major victory and called on ministers to scrap the policy.
The Government has until July 6 to ask the Supreme Court for permission to appeal, with Ms Braverman vowing to do so ‘very swiftly’.
In a statement earlier today, 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.
ANALYSIS: The Government’s Rwanda asylum deal is left down, but not out
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Editor for the Daily Mail
The Rwanda asylum deal is left down, but not out, by today’s devastating Court of Appeal ruling.
To the frustration of Home Office insiders, it means removals flights to the east African nation cannot take off any time soon.
This is a massive blow to the Government, which has been counting on the policy serving to deter migrants from crossing the Channel by small boat.
There is a clear and present risk that migrants may now be emboldened after senior judges in this country effectively ruled in their favour.
Recent weeks have seen fewer arrivals than expected. Last week there was a window of good weather for crossings – dubbed ‘Red Days’ in Home Office jargon – but the number of dinghies was lower than anticipated.
And overall numbers of crossings so far this year remain down compared with the same point last year.
It is possible that a ‘backlog’ of migrants heading for Britain had been holding back, waiting for the Court of Appeal ruling, and may now decide to climb aboard one of the people traffickers’ ‘death-trap’ dinghies.
However, there are two main courses of action now open to Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Firstly, to get the Rwanda policy back on track the Government is almost certain to lodge its own appeal at the Supreme Court against today’s ruling.
Ministers have been given until next Thursday to file initial paperwork on a possible appeal, after the Court of Appeal judges set what they described as a ‘deliberately tight timetable’.
Today’s ruling was not unanimous.
The panel of three top judges ruled two-to-one against the Government.
There was a so-called ‘dissenting judgment’ from the most senior judge in England and Wales, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, who observed that the scheme provides ‘powerful protections’ for any migrants removed to Rwanda.
The Supreme Court is generally more likely to take on a case when there has not been a unanimous ruling in the Court of Appeal.
If they agree to take it on, it is thought justices at the Supreme Court could hear the case by the end of the year.
The second course of action open to Mrs Braverman is to revise and improve the Rwanda deal.
The ruling set out how two of the judges – the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos; and Lord Justice Underhill – have concerns about ‘deficiencies’ in Rwanda’s asylum system.
They said its shortcomings could lead to migrants being returned to countries where they may face torture or ill-treatment, breaching Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
It may now be possible for Mrs Braverman to revise the agreement with the Rwandan government – alleviating the judges’ concerns by making the whole scheme ‘watertight’.
That, of course, would take time.
And it could even see the whole process of legal challenges go back to square one.
In the longer term there is another, third course of action – the ‘nuclear option’ – that ministers could consider.
Because the European Convention on Human Rights played a crucial role in blocking the scheme, the right of the Conservative party is likely to make fresh demands that Britain should leave the treaty.
Mrs Braverman is known to be sympathetic to such a move, but the PM has ruled it out.
He is now likely to face intense pressure from within his own party to reconsider that decision.
It may well be that today’s bombshell court ruling makes it more likely the Tories will make a major manifesto pledge on human rights in the next General Election.
In that scenario, it would be voters – not unelected judges – who would be given the final say on whether Rwanda flights finally get off the ground.
‘Rwanda is a safe country. The High Court agreed. The UNHCR have their own refugee scheme for Libyan refugees in Rwanda. We will now seek permission to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.
‘The policy of this government is very simple, it is this country – and your government – who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs. And I will do whatever is necessary to make that happen.’
Asked whether Mr Sunak agreed with Ms Braverman that the system was rigged against the British people, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘She was making the point that without the action we are taking, the powers that we had were not sufficient and were not appropriately dealing with the problem that the UK has – and indeed, all of Europe has – with illegal migration.
‘That’s why we’re rightly taking new powers through the Illegal Migration Bill, and taking other action to address this.’
The Court of Appeal ruling prompted a storm of criticism from Conservative MPs.
Former minister Sir Simon Clarke said: ‘This is a deeply disappointing ruling in the face of the clear will of Parliament. I would anticipate an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court.
‘We have to be able to control our borders. If the ECHR continues to forestall this, we have to revisit the question of our membership.’
Katherine Fletcher, Tory MP for South Ribble, said: ‘The Prime Minister is right, this is an important problem for the UK – we need to fix this, not be blocked by activist lawyers.
‘They should use the ballot box not the courts to push their POV.’
Telford MP Lucy Allan tweeted: ‘People will get fed up of the courts preventing the elected Government from governing on behalf of the British people.’
Meanwhile, Blackpool South MP Scott Benton called the ruling ‘extremely disappointing’ and said government policy should be ‘for the elected government of the day’.
While the Rwandan Government insisted the issue was a matter for the UK courts, it challenged the judges’ conclusion that Rwanda was not a safe country.
Spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said: ‘While this is ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system, we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees.
‘Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world and we have been recognised by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees.
‘We make a significant contribution to dealing with the impacts of the global migration crisis. Rwandans know what it means to be forced to flee home, and to make a new life in a new country.’
Ms Makolo said migrants to Rwanda would be ‘welcomed’ and given ‘the support they need to build new lives’.
But shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the decision was proof the Government’s immigration policy is ‘completely unravelling’.
She said: ‘Ministers were forced to admit this week that it will cost £169,000 to send each person to Rwanda on top of the £140m of taxpayers’ money they have already spent. Now the court has found that ministers didn’t even do the basic work to make sure the scheme was legal or safe.
‘Time and again, ministers have gone for gimmicks instead of getting a grip, and slogans instead of solutions, while the Tory boats chaos has got worse. The Rwanda scheme is unworkable, unethical and extortionate, a costly and damaging distraction from the urgent action the government should be taking.
The Court of Appeal’s decision was announced by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett during a short hearing in London, where he stressed the court reached its conclusion on the law and took ‘no view whatsoever’ about the political merits of the policy.
Lord Burnett, who heard the appeal with Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill in April, said the court ruled by a majority that the policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful.
He told the court Sir Geoffrey and Lord Justice Underhill concluded that 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.
He added the two judges found that: ‘In that sense Rwanda is not a ‘safe third country’.’
Under the proposals announced last April, any adult who enters Britain illegally could be sent on a one-way ticket to the African country to have their asylum claim processed.
Ministers hope the prospect of being immediately deported 4,000 miles away would put off migrants planning to travel to Britain by illegal means.
However, over the past 12 months, no migrants have been sent to Rwanda from the UK as the Government battles a series of legal challenges.
Today, a YouGov survey found half of Britons think it is unlikely migrants will ever be deported to Rwanda.
*BELOW IS A SUMMARY OF TODAY’S JUDGMENT*
Rishi Sunak announced today that he ‘fundamentally disagrees’ with the Court of Appeal’s ruling and will seek permission to appeal it in the Supreme Court
Home Secretary Suella Braverman pictured today leaving her house on the way to Whitehall
Home Secretary Suella Braverman on a March visit to Bwiza Riverside Houses in Kigali, where migrants would stay if the Rwanda scheme gets underway
Rwanda scheme: What happens next?
Campaigners and ministers remain locked in a legal battle over the Rwanda deal in the wake of the latest court ruling.
The decision, in favour of several asylum seekers and a charity fighting against the Government policy, was largely seen as a surprise but by no means signals the end of the court case.
– What happened?
The Court of Appeal ruled the Government’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda is unlawful amid concerns over the east African nation’s asylum system.
In a majority decision, judges overturned an earlier High Court ruling that said Rwanda could be considered a “safe third country”.
The Government said it will seek to appeal against the ruling, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying he “fundamentally” disagrees with the decision.
This was echoed by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who said she is “fully committed” to the policy.
– Haven’t we heard this before?
Sort of. This is just the latest stage in a long running series of legal challenges.
The first deportation flight – due to take off on June 14 last year – was grounded following a series of objections against individual removals and the policy as a whole, including last-minute rulings from the Court of Appeal and European Court of Human Rights.
Eight asylum seekers, along with charities and the PCS union, brought legal action against the plans to give people one-way tickets to Rwanda and the case was heard by the High Court, which handed down its judgment in December.
The case was then considered by the Court of Appeal after hearings in April, with judges delivering their ruling on Thursday.
– How will this affect the Government’s efforts to curb Channel crossings?
Thursday’s judgment throws into doubt a key aspect of the Prime Minister’s pledge to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel and reducing the number of people seeking asylum in the UK.
It will add to already mounting delays to the Government’s plans to send migrants to Rwanda as it means no flights can be scheduled until the outcome of further court proceedings, or until changes to the asylum system in Rwanda are made as directed in the latest court ruling.
– Has the Government spent money on the policy so far?
Yes, Britain has already paid Rwanda £140 million under the deal, Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft previously confirmed.
The department also reportedly spent £163,000 on then home secretary Priti Patel’s trip to the capital Kigali to announce the deal, as well as at least £22,000 on trips for officials to discuss the agreement.
A further £300,000 was spent on the first deportation flight which was grounded amid legal challenges, the Times newspaper said.
Additional costs – like legal fees, staffing and other resources, as well as the cost of Ms Braverman’s first visit to Rwanda as Home Secretary earlier this year – are yet to be disclosed.
– What does the Rwandan government think?
A spokeswoman for the administration said it takes “issue” with the Court of Appeal’s ruling, adding: “Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world.”
Yolande Makolo said: “Rwanda remains fully committed to making this partnership work. The broken global migration system is failing to protect the vulnerable, and empowering criminal smuggling gangs at an immeasurable human cost.
“When the migrants do arrive, we will welcome them and provide them with the support they’ll need to build new lives in Rwanda.”
– What happens next?
Any appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision could potentially go to the Supreme Court.
If the Government does seek an appeal to the Supreme Court, the first step will be to ask for permission to appeal – a preliminary step based on whether a potential challenge is “arguable”.
Under the rules of the UK’s highest court, Home Office lawyers will first need to ask the Court of Appeal for this permission, and if refused they are then given the chance to ask the Supreme Court directly.
Supreme Court challenges typically also require that the case involves a point of law of “general public importance” to be identified.
The rules of the Supreme Court say there is a 28-day time limit on asking for permission to appeal in the majority of civil cases, though this can be extended.
Announcing the Court of Appeal’s decision, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said there is a “deliberately tight timetable” to deal with the consequences of the judgment, in part so any appeal bid “can be decided promptly”.
If the Government is given the go ahead to bring a Supreme Court challenge, lawyers for both sides will appear before up to five justices at the court in Westminster, with a further decision in writing to follow.
Any decision at the Supreme Court may then be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights, although whether that happens in this case remains to be seen.
Issuing this morning’s ruling, Lord Burnett said: ‘The result is that the High Court’s decision that Rwanda was a safe third country is reversed and that unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum processes are corrected removal of asylum-seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful.
‘Finally, the Court of Appeal makes clear that its decision implies no view whatever about the political merits or otherwise of the Rwanda policy.
‘Those are entirely a matter for the Government, on which the court has nothing to say.
‘The court’s concern is only whether the policy complies with the law as laid down by Parliament.’
The Lord Chief Justice said he reached the opposite conclusion to the other two judges and found that the procedures put in place under the Rwanda agreement, and the assurances given by the Rwandan government, are ‘sufficient to ensure that there is no real risk that asylum-seekers relocated under the Rwanda policy will be wrongly returned to countries where they face persecution or other inhumane treatment’.
He concluded that the chances of failed asylum seekers being returned to their country of origin are ‘low’, in part because Rwanda has no agreements in place with any of those countries.
Lord Burnett added: ‘In addition, extensive monitoring arrangements, formal and informal, of all those sent to Rwanda and their asylum claims once there provide powerful protection.
‘The arrangements put in place provide sufficient safeguards in a context where both governments will be determined to make the agreement work and be seen to do so.’
In December last year, two judges at the High Court dismissed a series of legal bids against the plans, finding the Rwanda proposals were consistent with the Government’s legal obligations.
However, lawyers for some individual asylum seekers and the charity Asylum Aid brought the successful challenge against their decision at the Court of Appeal.
At a hearing in April, lawyers for the group of asylum seekers argued that the High Court ‘showed excessive deference’ to the Home Office’s assessment that assurances made by the Rwandan authorities ‘provide a sufficient guarantee to protect relocated asylum-seekers’ from a risk of torture or inhuman treatment.
The appeal judges were told that material provided by the Rwandan authorities ‘lacked credibility, consisting of blanket denials and clear contradictions’.
Charity Freedom from Torture, which intervened in the appeal, also argued the speed of the process means there is no ‘adequate opportunity’ to identify torture survivors.
Lawyers for the Home Office opposed the appeal, telling the court the Rwandan government has ‘indicated a clear willingness to co-operate with international monitoring mechanisms’ and that there are ‘reciprocal obligations with strong incentives for compliance’.
The hearing was told that some evidence about whether the Rwandan government would comply with its obligations came from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office ‘based on experience of bilateral relations extending over almost 25 years’ and that the Government is ‘confident the Rwandan authorities will comply with the assurances’.
The Court of Appeal’s ruling comes 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.
By contrast, the savings from ‘reduced asylum support’ are estimated at £106,000 per person, rising to £165,000 if the ‘per night cost’ of hotels continues to soar.
The sums are estimates not based on the true cost of the ‘commercially sensitive’ Rwanda scheme, which was enacted by Boris Johnson’s government last April after a £120m deal with Kigali.
Charity Asylum Aid, which brought the challenge alongside several asylum seekers, today described the Court of Appeal’s ruling as a ‘vindication of the importance of the Rule of Law and basic fairness when fundamental rights are at stake.’
Alison Pickup, the charity’s director, said: ‘We are delighted that the Court of Appeal has upheld the argument that Rwanda is not a safe country for asylum seekers.
‘While we are disappointed that the court has held that the process can be made fair, we are pleased that it has not upheld the High Court’s judgment and has made it clear that the Government needs to ensure that Home Office officials give people more time when they need it.
‘Basic standards of fairness and decency require that individuals are told why a decision as significant as sending them to a country thousands of miles away is being made, and have a fair chance to set out their case on all aspects of that decision.
‘The Court of Appeal’s judgment is a vindication of the importance of the Rule of Law and basic fairness when fundamental rights are at stake.’
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch called on Ms Braverman to abandon the Rwanda policy, describing it as an ‘unworkable and unethical fever dream’.
Yasmine Ahmed, its UK director, said: ‘This verdict is some rare good news in an otherwise bleak landscape for human rights in the UK. Hopefully, it will be respected by the government and we can consign this cruel and inhumane proposal to the history books.
A group of up to 80 migrants are brought ashore at Dover marine last week after crossing the English Channel
As of Monday, 11,328 asylum seekers in 254 boats have made the perilous journey across the Dover Strait so far this year
‘The Home Secretary should now abandon this unworkable and unethical fever dream of a policy and focus her efforts on fixing our broken and neglected migration system.
READ MORE – House of Lords forces through major changes to the Illegal Migration Bill in another blow to the Government
‘This verdict presents the Government with an opportunity to change course. Rather than treating human beings like cargo it can ship elsewhere, it should be focusing on ending the hostile environment towards refugees and asylum seekers.’
If passed, the Migration Bill would see the law changed so that people who come to the UK illegally through a safe country are not allowed to stay – instead being detained and removed, either to their home country or a country such as Rwanda.
However – in a further blow to the Government – the Bill was significantly softened last night after Labour and Lib Dem peers forced through a series of major changes in the House of Lords.
They added a requirement that the Government complies with international treaties, removed the power for the new law to be applied retrospectively, stopped potential victims of human trafficking being detained before their cases are considered, and let unaccompanied children make asylum claims.
In response, a Conservative spokesman said: ‘Today’s vote proves what we already knew – the Labour Party cannot be trusted to stop the boats and the gangs that profit.’
Today, a YouGov survey found half of Britons think it is unlikely migrants will ever be deported to Rwanda
The first amendment on following international law was voted in by 222 to 179. Two Tories – Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth and Lord Cormack – voted against the Government.
READ MORE – Moment police crack open lorry trailers carrying illegal immigrants and arrest £1million people smuggling ringleader
In the second defeat, voted through by 219 to 177, the Government lost the power to deport migrants who arrived between March and the passing of the law.
The third blow to Rishi Sunak meant potential trafficking victims would no longer be held or removed before being assessed.
That amendment was passed 210 to 145. And a fourth change meaning unaccompanied children could make asylum claims was also passed, by 185 to 133.
When the bill returns to the Commons, liberal Tories could join opposition MPs to ensure the Lords amendments are enshrined in law.
So far this year, 11,328 migrants have made the perilous journey across the 21-mile Dover Straits in 254 boats.
This map shows how the Rwanda scheme would work if ministers are able to see off legal challenges
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