UK government to pursue new migrant deal with Rwanda

Wednesday November 15 2023
sunak (1)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reacts before delivering a speech. PHOTO | AFP


The UK government has said it is exploring a new deal with Rwanda that could allow it to still transfer illegal migrants to the country despite the Supreme Court declaring that refugees sent to the country face a real risk of being returned to countries from which they have fled - where they could be subject to inhumane treatment.

Read: UK Supreme Court blocks Rwanda migrant deal

"My commitment to stopping the boats is unwavering. The government has been working on a new treaty with Rwanda, and we’ll finalise that in light of today’s judgment. If necessary, I am prepared to revisit our domestic legal frameworks," Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, said in a post on his X account.

Under its recently passed Illegal Migration Act, any migrants who enter the UK through unofficial means - for example crossing the Channel in small boats - would be removed from the UK, banned from future re-entry and barred from applying for British citizenship.

The government will have a legal duty to detain and remove them either to Rwanda or another "safe" third world country.


UK's Supreme Court has ruled that there were substantial grounds to believe that genuine refugees sent to Rwanda could be at risk of being returned to countries from which they have fled - where they could be subject to inhumane treatment.

Read: UK court says Rwanda still not safe for asylum seekers

In a unanimous decision, the five top justices on Wednesday said the Court of Appeal was right to conclude in June that there had not been a proper assessment of whether Rwanda was safe.

Reversing an earlier decision that had deemed it safe, a UK High Court of Appeal had said Rwanda is not a safe third world country for asylum seekers due to deficiencies in its asylum processes. 

The latest decision is a major setback for both the UK and Rwanda which are actively promoting the arrangement to UN agencies and other countries as an innovative solution for a “broken” international refugee protection regime.

They contend it will deter criminality, exploitation and abuse and support the humane and respectful treatment of refugees.

Rwanda says it "took issue" with the ruling that the country is not a safe third world country. 

Read: BUSINGYE: Rwanda will keep doors open to asylum seekers

"This is ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system," Rwanda's government said.

"However, we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe third country for asylum seekers and refugees, in terms of refoulement. Rwanda and the UK have been working together to ensure the integration of relocated asylum seekers into Rwandan society," the government added in a statement saying it remains "committed to its international obligations, and we have been recognised by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees".