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Monday, December 4, 2023

Rishi Sunak vows to end legal 'merry-go-round' and deliver Rwanda migration plan

NewsRishi Sunak vows to end legal 'merry-go-round' and deliver Rwanda migration plan

Rishi Sunak is in the fight of his political life.

The critics are circling and hammering every aspect of his bid to end the Channel migrant crisis.

Some argue the policy is inhumane and cruel.

But the Prime Minister will be less concerned about these lines of attack.

He will be more worried about former Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s presence on the backbenches, with her allies highlighting how European judges could continue to thwart attempts to deport migrants to Kigali.

This has the potential to alienate the British public so frustrated by the Channel migrant crisis.

Before we get to that, let’s break down yesterday’s historic judgment.

The Supreme Court acknowledged “systemic defects” in Rwanda’s asylum system.

They warned of a “lack of legal representation”, concerns over Government interference in politically sensitive cases, Rwanda’s 100% rejection rate and Kigali’s “apparent misunderstanding” of its obligations under the Refugee Convention.

And then there’s the biggest – and most problematic – issue: Refoulement.

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

Lord Reed, the President of the Supreme Court, expressed concern the original “memorandum of understanding” between Britain and Rwanda is “not legally binding and cannot be relied on by asylum seekers”.

The Government has tried to address this by signing a legally binding agreement, which ministers hope will satisfy the courts.

As one source put it to me, the Home Office has been watching proceedings and fixing things as they go along. British staff have been training Rwandan officials, they’ve helped set up a new IT system and helped them to increase “capacity”.

On refoulement, the Rwandan government has promised no Channel migrants sent to Kigali will be deported to their home countries. Asylum seekers will also be given legal rights – no matter the result of their application.

So we have now approached the central question.

Will a plane actually take off?

And Rishi Sunak didn’t exactly offer much reassurance that a flight will leave the tarmac.

Asked repeatedly if one would leave before the next general election, the Prime Minister would not confirm it.

This is partly because the legal guarantees may still not be enough to satisfy British courts that Rwanda is safe and the policy legal.

The emergency legislation will allow Mr Sunak and the Home Office to utilise new powers contained within the Illegal Migration Act – namely that the Home Secretary can ignore Section 39 injunctions handed out by the European Court of Human Rights – to ensure flights can take off.

But many on the right of the Conservative Party want the Government to go further and disapply the European Convention on Human Rights and at least three other international agreements.

They are convinced it does not go far enough.

But it’s clear the Prime Minister doesn’t want to go that far and leave Britain with Russia and Belarus as the only European countries not signing up to the ECHR.

Home Secretary James Cleverly indicated as much yesterday.

So Mr Sunak’s spring target feels a very long way away at the moment.

The Government will be hoping the Supreme Court’s ruling does not ground the policy for good.

The Prime Minister will likely need a flight to take off before the general election if he is to have any hope of claiming he has stopped the boats.

More vital – and potentially explosive – days are ahead of us.

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