We are extremely pleased and relieved that the UK Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful. Asylum seekers we work with here in Suffolk have had the threat of this cruel scheme hanging over them for too long, adding to the trauma and distress they have already experienced. People have told us how scared they are to receive the dreaded Rwanda letters. We have said from the start that this policy was inhumane and unworkable, and does nothing constructive to tackle a global humanitarian issue.
The asylum seekers we work with are fleeing severe violence, conflict and persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Sudan. They have witnessed horrors and been forced to seek safety elsewhere through no fault of their own. The vast majority will ultimately be granted asylum because they have a genuine need for our protection. It is wrong that they have been subject to the threat of unlawful and potentially harmful action, and we are very glad this threat has finally been removed.
We hope this horrific scheme will now be scrapped once and for all – along with the Illegal Migration Act that depends upon it – and the government will instead focus its resources on creating safe and legal routes for people fleeing terrible situations, making fast and fair decisions on asylum claims, and supporting refugees to resettle and move on with their lives. At Suffolk Refugee Support, for more than two decades we have seen successive governments enact ever more punitive measures against asylum seekers, with little effect but to create more human misery. The majority of the people we have supported in that time were forced to enter the UK through clandestine routes. Today, they are our friends and colleagues, they are British citizens, doctors and local business owners.
This judgment is a victory for reason, compassion and the rule of law. We are sincerely thankful to the UNHCR and all the lawyers and courageous asylum seekers involved in this case for their hard work, overwhelming evidence and clear explanations of how this scheme could have led to refugees being tortured or killed. It is worth reflecting that many people we work with are seeking safety because there is no rule of law to protect them in their home country.
You can hear us discussing the ruling on BBC Radio Suffolk here (from 1:49:00 in).