Rishi Sunak will seek to revive his plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda under emergency legislation after the Supreme Court ruled the landmark plan illegal in a major blow to the government.
Ministers tried to play down the scale of the court defeat as the Prime Minister pledged she would “not allow a foreign court to block these flights” amid pressure from the Tory right to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights Rights. ESDA).
While he resisted calls to leave the international treaty, he vowed to end the “little game” of legal challenges with a law that would deem the East African nation a safe country.
It comes after the UK's highest court rejected the government's appeal against its policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda if they arrive by unauthorized means.
The five senior judges unanimously ruled that the plans are illegal because there is a risk that genuine asylum seekers will be forced back to their country of origin from Kigali.
The president of the High Court, Lord Reid, ruled that there would be a risk that Rwanda would return genuine asylum seekers to face “ill-treatment” in the country they had fled.
The decision came as a serious setback to the Prime Minister's pledge to “stop the boats”, but he and other ministers insisted flights could start in spring next year and crucially before the general election.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick told Sky News it “must” happen.
“That's what the public wants.”
The High Court ruling came after a week that had already seen Tories angered by the sacking of Suella Braverman as home secretary and a reshuffle that tilted his administration towards the centre.
Ms. Braverman on Wednesday moved to demand that Mr. Sunak introduce laws to block the ECHR, the Human Rights Act and other avenues of legal challenge, echoing calls from other right-wing advocates.
The prime minister, at a Downing Street press conference, unveiled plans for a new treaty with Kigali that would provide a legal guarantee that asylum seekers would not be removed from Rwanda.
“But we have to end the merry-go-round,” he told a Downing Street press conference. “So I am also announcing today that we will take the extraordinary step of enacting emergency legislation.
“This will allow Parliament to confirm that under our new treaty, Rwanda is safe.”
He also said he would “make it clear we will bring back anyone if ordered to do so by a court”, meaning migrants sent to Kigali could then be brought back to the UK.
Home Office officials were unable to say what would happen to asylum seekers who remained in Rwanda after their applications were rejected if they were not removed.
Britain is expected to pay Rwanda more money for the new treaty, having already handed over £140m under the plans which have not seen a single asylum seeker turned away since it was announced in April 2020.
Mr Sunak's plan echoed a call from former prime minister Boris Johnson, who argued that “the only way to end the legal blockade on Rwanda” was a law to designate Rwanda as a “safe” country.
Labour's Yvette Cooper accused Mr Sunak of “making more promises and chasing more headlines”.
The shadow home secretary said: “Rishi Sunak keeps making more promises and chasing more titles on boats, never delivering on the commitments he has already made.
“Conservative ministers knew what the problems were with the Rwandan system 18 months ago – if they thought this was the answer, why didn't they do it a long time ago?