Rishi Sunak insists judges will not be allowed to block the Rwanda scheme as he bids to drive through emergency laws to clear legal blocks
- The Prime Minister said patience was ‘wearing thin’ with hurdles to the scheme
Rishi Sunak last night warned judges they will not be allowed to block his flagship Rwanda scheme again and vowed to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get deportation flights off the ground next year.
The Prime Minister said patience was ‘wearing thin’ with the constant hurdles thrown in the path of a scheme designed to smash the business model of the people-smuggling gangs.
He pledged to bring forward emergency legislation within weeks to prevent a repeat of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that Rwanda is not a safe place to send Channel migrants.
Rishi Sunak warned judges they will not be allowed to block his Rwanda scheme again
Less than 24 hours earlier, sacked home secretary Suella Braverman (pictured) openly accused the PM of trying to frustrate action on the Rwanda deterrent
READ MORE – Supreme Court will rule today on whether Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda migrants plan is legal
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, he also vowed to block any attempt by European judges to halt flights to Rwanda, as happened in June last year at the 11th hour as the first flight prepared to take off.
‘I will not allow a foreign court to block these flights,’ he said. ‘If the Strasbourg court chooses to intervene against the express wishes of Parliament I am prepared to do what is necessary to get flights off. I will not take the easy way out.’
Mr Sunak said ministers were also close to finalising a new treaty with Rwanda in which the east African state will commit to not returning any migrant sent from the UK to their home country.
The row came as:
- Allies of Boris Johnson welcomed the plan for Parliament to declare Rwanda a safe country in law, which was first floated by the former PM in his Mail column in June.
- Immigration minister Robert Jenrick also vowed to get flights going by the spring and warned that the Conservatives would lose the next election unless the scheme is made to work.
- Rebel MP Dame Andrea Jenkyns, who became the first Tory to submit a letter of no confidence in Mr Sunak, said six colleagues were poised to follow suit, but none had gone public by last night.
- The PM refused to criticise Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson, who said the Government should ‘ignore the law’ and start flights to Rwanda immediately.
- Former Cabinet minister Sir Simon Clarke warned that Mr Sunak’s handling of the crisis would be seen as a ‘confidence issue’ in his leadership.
- Dozens of Tory MPs were in talks to back a potential amendment supporting Mrs Braverman’s plan to set aside human rights laws. The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Rwanda plan was unlawful because of the risk migrants could later be deported back to their home country and face ‘ill treatment’.
The devastating verdict is a further blow to the scheme, which is seen as vital in deterring migrants from making the perilous journey across the Channel.
Suella Braverman led calls on the Tory Right to legislate to carve out the plan from the European Convention on Human Rights and other human rights laws.
The Prime Minister said patience was ‘wearing thin’ with the constant hurdles thrown in the path of a scheme designed to smash the business model of the people-smuggling gangs
Mr Sunak has pledged to pull out all the stops to get the Rwanda scheme up and running
The former home secretary, who was fired on Monday, said: ‘There is no chance of curbing illegal migration within the current legal framework. We must legislate or admit defeat.’
So what is ‘refoulement’?
Refoulement is an old French word now being used to deliver a key blow in stopping flights to Rwanda.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means the practice of sending refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to face persecution.
The term originates from the French word refouler ¿ to force back. It was used as long ago as the 18th century but the term first emerged in relation to refugees in the aftermath of the Second World War when millions fled their homelands in search of refuge.
Non-refoulement became the core principle of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which asserted a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.
This includes those who flee through fear of being persecuted as a result of their sexual orientation.
Mr Sunak told MPs he was willing to ‘revisit those international relationships’ only if it ‘becomes clear that our domestic legal frameworks or international conventions are still frustrating plans’.
A government source said that the proposed treaty and law change would be quicker than attempting to disapply the ECHR, which was ‘likely to be challenged in the courts’.
However the changes will need primary legislation, opening up the risk that Labour and the Liberal Democrats could combine to frustrate or even block the plans in the Lords.
Mr Sunak said he still hoped to get the first flights to Rwanda going by the spring of next year – but he repeatedly refused to guarantee they would start before the next election.
Supreme Court president Lord Reed ruled there would be a risk of ‘refoulement’, Rwanda returning genuine asylum seekers to face ‘ill treatment’ in the country they had fled.
He made it clear in his summary of the judgement that the ECHR was not the only international treaty relevant to the court’s decision, which also took into account domestic law.
The ruling brought an end to almost 18 months of legal wrangling which began in June 2022 when an anonymous judge in Strasbourg issued a temporary injunction preventing a flight containing channel migrants.
Mr Jenrick last night said he was confident the new plan would see planes leaving for Rwanda by spring.
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