Sunak to sign Rwanda’s new treaty after Supreme Court rules his plan illegal

Rishi Sunak has vowed to sign an upgraded deal with Rwanda after his pledge to “stop the boats” was put in fresh jeopardy by the Supreme Court ruling that his flagship asylum move is illegal.

The Prime Minister has hinted he could change UK laws “if necessary” and may review “international relations” as he comes under pressure from the Conservatives to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Five judges at the UK's highest court unanimously on Wednesday rejected the government's appeal against its policy of removing asylum seekers to the East African nation if they arrive by unauthorized means.

Deportation flights to Kigali will remain grounded despite the UK handing over more than £140 million for a policy that has stalled during more than a year of legal challenges.

New Home Secretary James Cleverley said the Rwanda deal would be turned into a legally binding treaty “as soon as possible” to ease concerns so it would be consistent with international law.

He suggested that new plans drawn up in recent months mean asylum seekers rejected by Rwanda could be returned to the UK to ease High Court concerns that genuine refugees could be sent back to the countries they came from. escapes.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer apologized to the nation from Mr Sunak for wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' cash on the “ridiculous, pathetic spectacle”.

The Prime Minister pledged to do “whatever it takes” to end the Channel crossings as he set out how it would be the first step in “concluding” a new treaty with Rwanda.

He focused on the Supreme Court suggesting changes there to prevent genuine asylum seekers from being returned to the countries they fled could make the schemes legal.

“There are further elements that they want additional certainty about and they noted that changes may be made in the future to address these issues,” Mr Sunak told Prime Minister's Questions.

“The government is already working on a new treaty with Rwanda and we will complete it in light of today's crisis.”

But he made an offer to the Tories, suggesting he could go further, with sacked Home Secretary Suella Braverman waiting in the wings to challenge his authority.

“If it becomes clear that our domestic legal frameworks or international conventions continue to frustrate plans at that point, I am ready to change our laws and review those international relations,” the Prime Minister said.

“The British people expect us to do whatever it takes to stop the boats and that is exactly what this Government will deliver.”

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.

Ms Braverman said after her eviction this week that Mr Sunak had no “reliable plan B” and would be “back to square one” in the event of legal failure, as she targeted his approach to the ECtHR.

But Lord Reid made it clear in his summary of the judgment that it was not the only international treaty relevant to the court's decision, which also took domestic law into account.

In the Commons, Mr Smart said that in recent months, ministers have been working with Rwanda to “provide the certainty that the court requires”.

“We are working with Rwanda to build capacity and amend the agreements with Rwanda to make it clear that those sent there cannot be sent to another country from the UK,” he said.

Boris Johnson urged Mr Sunak to change the law to label Rwanda a “safe” country, arguing it was the “only way to end the legal blockade on Rwanda”.

Mr Sunak will hold a press conference in Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon as his most hard-line MPs grow increasingly disillusioned with his leadership.

Lord Reid agreed with the Court of Appeal ruling earlier this year that there are “substantial” reasons to believe there is a “real risk” of Rwandan refugees being returned to their countries of origin.

But he made clear the judgment was based only on the current failure to “eliminate the risk” there and said the changes needed to reduce it “can be delivered in the future”.

The landmark policy was first announced by Boris Johnson in April 2020, but not a single migrant has been taken to Kigali during a series of legal challenges.

This awful, cash-for-people deal has always been cruel and unethical, but more importantly, it is illegal. Today's crisis should bring to an end this shameful mark on the history of the United Kingdom

Steve Smith, Care4Calais

Campaigners welcomed the verdict, with the charity Freedom From Torture hailing it as “a victory for reason and compassion”.

Steve Smith, chief executive of refugee charity Care4Calais, said: “The High Court decision is a victory for humanity.

“Today's crisis should bring to an end this shameful mark on the history of the United Kingdom.”

The legal rulings were based on evidence that Kigali has a “poor human rights record”, citing British police who warned Rwandans in the UK of credible plans by the nation's government to kill them.

Concerns were also raised about political and media freedom, as well as the inability of Rwandan courts to act independently of the government.

Data from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reported a 100% rejection rate of Rwandan claims from countries in conflict zones such as Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

This is despite the fact that UK authorities often consider allegations to be ‘substantiated'.

The body also presented evidence of more than 100 cases of “refoulement” – the process of returning refugees to their countries of origin – which took place after the UK agreed to its deal with Rwanda.

More than 27,300 migrants have been spotted making unauthorized Channel crossings so far this year, according to official figures.