Yousaf calls for ‘morally repugnant’ Rwanda asylum policy to be scrapped

The UK Government’s flagship plan was deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Craig Paton
Wednesday 15 November 2023 13:05 GMT
Timeline of Rwanda asylum plan as Supreme Court passes verdict

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has called for the Rwanda asylum policy to be scrapped after the Supreme Court ruled it is unlawful.

The UK Government’s flagship plan, which would remove asylum seekers to the African nation if they arrive by unauthorised means, was impeded by five justices at the UK’s highest court who unanimously rejected an appeal.

Speaking to the PA news agency after the judgment, Mr Yousaf condemned the policy.

He said: “We always knew that the Rwanda asylum policy from the UK Government was morally repugnant. We’ve now had it confirmed that it’s unlawful too.

“What has happened to us as a country, what has happened to the UK Government that their first instinct when people who are arriving to our country to seek sanctuary from persecution, from war, from extreme poverty, their first reaction, their first instinct, is to put those individuals on a plane and send them thousands of miles away to Rwanda.

“What we need is that policy to be scrapped and a humane asylum system put in place.”

But despite the calls, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he will work to renegotiate a treaty with Rwanda.

He vowed to do “whatever it takes” to end small boat Channel crossings, and said the first step will be to “finalise” a new treaty with Rwanda which could alleviate the legal challenges.

“Furthermore, if necessary I am prepared to revisit our domestic legal frameworks,” Mr Sunak said during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Supreme Court President Lord Reed agreed the Court of Appeal was entitled to rule there is “substantial” grounds to believe there is a “real risk” of refugees being returned to countries where they could face “ill treatment”.

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

The Scottish Greens – Mr Yousaf’s governmental partners – went a step further after the judgment, saying the Prime Minister should resign and describing the Rwanda plan as “vile and racist”.

Referencing former home secretary Suella Braverman, who was sacked by Mr Sunak this week, Scottish Green justice spokeswoman Maggie Chapman said: “Perhaps most of all it reflects on the weak Prime Minister who saw fit to appoint her into the heart of government and defended the plan as shamelessly as she did. He should follow her out the door.

“This scheme may have been blocked, but it didn’t happen in isolation. We need to dismantle the anti-immigrant policies and the hostile environment that has endured for far too long.

“We must now resist any attempts to circumvent the rule of law or any potential moves to remove the UK from the Council of Europe and its obligations.

“This Government has shown it has no regard for human rights. It is only with the powers of an independent country that we can build a progressive and welcoming system based on support and solidarity.”

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