UK’s Sunak suffers major blow as Rwanda migrant scheme declared unlawful

London: The UK Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the government’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful, dealing a massive blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s major election pledge on immigration before a vote expected next year.

The court unanimously rejected the government’s appeal against an earlier ruling that migrants could not be sent to Rwanda because it could not be considered a safe third country.

The Rwanda scheme is the central plank of Sunak’s immigration policy as he prepares to face an election next year, amid concern among some voters about the numbers of asylum seekers arriving in small boats on Britain’s shores.

Announcing the court’s decision, court President Robert Reed said the five judges involved agreed there were “substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda would be at real risk of refoulement,” being sent back to their country of origin.

But he left open the chance the scheme could be resurrected saying “the changes needed to eliminate the risk of refoulement may be delivered in the future, but they have not been shown to be in place now.”

The ruling is a major setback to Sunak’s promise to stop migrants arriving without permission on the south coast of Britain in small boats from Europe.