Campaigners have lost a test case that could have prevented the deportation of Darfuri asylum-seekers to Sudan.
The law lords overturned a Court of Appeal ruling that it was "unduly harsh" to send people back to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The Home Office said it was now free to start sending people back to the city, despite warnings that people faced torture or harassment when they arrived back in their homeland.
There was widespread anger at the ruling as campaigners warned they would launch a fresh legal challenge if the Home Office attempted to deport any Darfuri asylum-seekers
The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, had challenged the Court of Appeal ruling that conditions in Khartoum camps, the difficulties of making a living and the total alteration in a Darfuri refugee's life made it unlawful to expect them to move there. But the law lords did not consider new claims that asylum-seekers faced torture and harassment by Sudanese security forces if they were flown back.
Lord Bingham, sitting with Lords Hoffmann, Hope and Brown and Baroness Hale, said the court had recognised that many non-Arab Darfuris were ill-equipped for life in city slums, having come mainly from settled rural backgrounds, but argued that it would not be unreasonable or unduly harsh to relocate refugees to the camps.
The Home office said it "welcomed" yesterday's ruling. Ms Smith has already ordered a review of Home Office guidance on Sudan, which could lead to the threat of deportation being lifted if ministers accept it is too dangerous to send asylum-seekers home.
Donna Covey, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "It is breathtaking hypocrisy for the Prime Minister to speak about the tragedy of Darfur at the same time as Home Office lawyers are seeking to forcibly return those who have asked for sanctuary in Britain."Reuse content