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The UK Supreme Court Concludes Rwanda is Not a Safe Country for Refugee Removal

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Immigration Solicitors are processing the recently announced decision of the Supreme Court that Rwanda is not a safe country for refugees arriving in the UK to be sent to.

The impact of the Court conclusion that Rwanda is not a safe country is that under current UK laws it is unlawful for the UK government to transfer refugees to Rwanda for their asylum claims to be dealt with offshore.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Lawyers and UK Asylum Solicitors 

For asylum and immigration law advice call London-based OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The Supreme Court decision

The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal that sending refugees to Rwanda for processing would be unlawful. Initially, the High Court said the scheme was lawful.

It is for the politicians and voters to consider their next steps. All Immigration Solicitors can do is to act to protect asylum seekers in light of the Supreme Court decision.

In this article, our specialist asylum lawyers look at the rationale behind the Supreme Court decision and what it means for asylum seekers.


You may not have heard of the concept of refoulement. Most people have not but to understand the Supreme Court decision-making process it is important to have an idea of what refoulement means.

Refoulement is the direct or indirect exposure of a person to very serious harm in another country. It was argued that the UK government's Rwanda plan amounted to refoulement as Rwanda is unsafe for asylum seekers. That was why the Supreme Court had to rule on the central issue of whether Rwanda is a safe country.

Refoulement is prohibited under:

  • The Refugee Convention and
  • The European Convention on Human Rights

The Court concluded that the Rwanda plan amounted to refoulement after it came to the view that Rwanda was not a safe country to transfer refugees to.

Rwanda as a non-safe country

The Supreme Court had to work through why the High Court deemed Rwanda safe and the Court of Appeal did not do so.

The Supreme Court said the crucial issue was whether there were substantial grounds for believing that the removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda would expose the asylum seekers to a real risk of ill-treatment because of the refoulement.

The Supreme Court said the High Court should have placed more weight on the evidence of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and that as the High Court did not do so it was right that the Court of Appeal considered the evidence.

The Supreme Court noted that:

  • Rwanda has a widely acknowledged poor human rights record
  • Rwanda’s judicial system has not been an effective check on the government in Rwanda
  • The government in Rwanda operated an asylum outsourcing agreement with Israel and that agreement was breached

Outsourcing refugee claims

Whilst all asylum seekers in the UK will be delighted by the Supreme Court decision it is important to understand the limits of the Court case.

The Supreme Court held Rwanda was not safe and therefore it would not be legal, under current UK law, to transfer refugees to Rwanda for processing.

The Court did not decide:

  • Outsourcing asylum seeker claims is illegal
  • Other countries would not be safe to outsource asylum seeker claims
  • Rwanda could not be deemed safe in future

In essence, lawyers for UK asylum seekers say the Supreme Court decision is a tremendous relief for asylum claimants but it probably is not the end of the road to either the Rwanda plan or to the government‘s stated intention to stop the boats and limit net immigration figures.

The next steps for the UK government may be:

  • Change the outsourcing country from Rwanda to one with a better human rights record
  • Work with Rwanda so ‘safe’ issues are addressed and retry
  • Change UK law and/or withdraw from international refugee treaties – but the UK has spent years encouraging countries to sign up for international treaties and spent years promoting the benefits of human rights legislation
  • Process asylum seeker claims in the UK more efficiently – something that both asylum claimants and the government would agree on provided asylum lawyers thought that the claims were processed fairly but efficiently

OTS Solicitors as your asylum lawyers

If you need asylum advice you can place your trust in OTS Solicitors.

We are based in London but advise on asylum seeker claims across the UK.

The asylum team is celebrating its 2024 ranking in one of the leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession.

Here is what the 2024 edition of Chambers says about OTS Solicitors:

‘’OTS Solicitors is a sought-after immigration team with a focus on human rights and personal immigration issues. The firm handles a plethora of sophisticated matters, ranging from citizenship deprivation cases to indefinite leave to remain applications. It represents a range of individuals, including students, spouses and families.

For friendly and professional asylum advice call us for assistance with your asylum claim. 

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Lawyers and UK Asylum Solicitors 

For asylum and immigration law advice call London-based OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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