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UK Supreme Court Debates Legality of Deporting Asylum-Seekers to Rwanda

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. PHOTO/AP NEWS

Lodon, UK | AP |The UK Supreme Court is grappling with a significant challenge to the British government’s immigration policy aimed at curbing the influx of migrants. The policy involves sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda and has faced criticism for its legality and humanitarian implications.

The government is disputing a Court of Appeal decision from June, which declared the policy unlawful, citing concerns about Rwanda’s safety as a destination for asylum-seekers from Vietnam, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan.

This legal battle spans three days of arguments, beginning on Monday. The government argues that the policy is secure, while lawyers representing the migrants contend that it is both unlawful and inhumane.

This issue comes at a time when Europe and the US are grappling with how to address the influx of migrants seeking refuge from various crises, including war, violence, oppression, and environmental disasters. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made “stopping the boats” a top priority to curb unauthorized immigration, with a reported decrease in arrivals by boat compared to the previous year.

The policy aims to deter criminal gangs from smuggling migrants across the English Channel by making the UK an unattractive destination, given the possibility of deportation to Rwanda.

The perilous journey across the Channel has led to tragic incidents, such as capsized boats resulting in migrant deaths. The government argues that the policy is a fair response to dealing with unauthorized arrivals and that Rwanda is a safe “third country” for asylum-seekers.

Although a deal between the UK and Rwandan governments was reached over a year ago to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda if granted asylum, no one has been deported there due to ongoing legal challenges.

Human rights groups argue that deporting people thousands of miles away to a place they do not wish to live is inhumane. They also raise concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record, including allegations of torture and government opponent killings.

Initially, the High Court upheld the policy, but the Court of Appeal reversed that decision, citing Rwanda’s inability to be deemed safe. The government contends that the Court of Appeal overstepped and misjudged the safety of deportees in Rwanda.

Lawyers for the migrants argue that their clients face a real risk of torture, punishment, and inhumane treatment, violating the European Convention on Human Rights. They also raise concerns about how Rwanda determines refugee status.

One of the claimants argues that the UK should still adhere to EU asylum procedures, despite Brexit. EU policies only allow asylum-seekers to be sent to a safe third country if they have a connection to it.

Even if the courts permit the policy, the actual number of individuals sent to Rwanda and the associated costs remain uncertain. Additionally, the opposition Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, has indicated his intention to scrap the policy if elected prime minister, potentially shaping future immigration policies in the UK.

The court is not expected to deliver an immediate verdict following the hearing.

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