s it examines the Government’s Rwanda deportation policy, the Supreme Court will hear from asylum seekers about the “trauma” and “torture” they have experienced.
The Home Office is contesting a June Court of Appeal decision that the multimillion-pound agreement, which would see asylum seekers sent to the country in east Africa, was illegal.
The Government’s argument that Rwanda is “less attractive” than the UK but a secure place to deport asylum seekers was heard by five judges at the UK’s top court on the opening day of the three-day hearing.
When considering asylum seekers who may have a strong asylum claim, two appeals judges concluded in June that there was a “real risk” that they could be sent back to their native country and subject to persecution.
Last year, the Government was considering sending migrants to the remote Ascension Island for processing as a “plan B” if their Rwanda plan fails, according to reports.
The plan to move migrants was previously considered by Priti Patel, Suella Braverman’s predecessor as Home Secretary, but was rejected as unworkable.
Home Office minister Sarah Dines said the proposal to send people to Ascension Island could replace the Government’s plan to deport people to Rwanda.
“We are pretty confident that Rwanda is a legal policy. The High Court and the Lord Chief Justice found that it was, so that is what we are focusing on. But, like any responsible government, we look at additional measures. So we are looking at everything to make sure our policy works,” she told Times Radio.
While the high court did rule the Rwanda policy was legal, the Court of Appeal has since ruled it is not. The Government has indicated it will seek a final decision in the Supreme Court.
Ascension Island is a British overseas territory, located 4,000 miles from the UK, halfway between Africa and South America in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Here are all the events leading up to the latest development in the Government’s Rwanda policy.
April 14: Following a drastic increase in the number of people crossing the Channel, then-prime minister Boris Johnson announces a plan to deport migrants arriving in small boats to Rwanda for their claims to be processed. He says this would act as a “very considerable deterrent”.
June 15: The first deportation flight to Rwanda is cancelled just minutes before take-off following a ruling by a judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
August 23: The Ministry of Defence says 1,295 migrants made the crossing in 27 boats, another new record which remains the highest figure for a single day.
August 25: Former home secretary Priti Patel announces an agreement with the Albanian government to curb the numbers of migrants from that country amid concerns they account for 60 per cent of all those arriving in the UK.
November 14: New Home Secretary Suella Braverman signs an agreement with French interior minister Gerald Darmian allowing British officers to join French beach patrols.
November 23: Ms Braverman admits the Government has “failed to control our borders”, but tells MPs they are determined to “fix” the problem, following criticism of overcrowding at the Manston processing centre in Kent.
December 14: Four people died while 39 others are rescued after their dinghy capsized in the Channel.
December 19: The High Court rules the Government’s Rwanda policy is lawful, but orders the cases of the first eight deportees to be reconsidered.
December 31: 45,755 migrants made the Channel crossing over the course of the year, according to Government figures.
January 4: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announces legislation to tackle the migrant crisis as one of five key priorities for his premiership.
March 7: Ms Braverman tells MPs the Illegal Migration Bill will impose a legal duty to remove those arriving in the country illegally, barring them from claiming asylum in the UK.
March 10: Tensions mount as Mr Sunak defends the policy as “the right approach” against criticism from sports pundit Gary Lineker which led to a high-profile impartiality row at the BBC and numerous colleagues threatening to boycott Match Of The Day in solidarity with the presenter.
March 12: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt does not rule out the prospect of children being detained under the new plans, which would see those crossing the Channel eligible for asylum only in a “safe” third country such as Rwanda.
March 13: The plan draws criticism from former Tory prime minister Theresa May, who says it is “not enough” to send people to claim asylum in Rwanda and warns the UK is “shutting the door” on victims of modern slavery as it currently stands.
March 14: A High Court judge rules that asylum seekers facing removal to Rwanda can appeal against Home Office decisions over alleged errors in the consideration of whether relocation poses a risk to their human rights, dealing another blow to the plan.
March 17: Ms Braverman doubles down on the deportation policy on a visit to Rwanda despite the plan remaining embroiled in legal battles, claiming the £140 million deal will be a “powerful deterrent” to those attempting to cross the Channel.
March 18: Ms Braverman is given a tour of potential migrant housing after the land was purchased by the Rwandan government, ahead of meeting with President Paul Kagame and her counterpart Vincent Biruta to discuss the deal.
April 14: A year after it was signed, new figures show the Rwanda deal is failing to deter asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel. As of early April, almost 5,000 people had made the journey since the start of 2023, which is almost exactly the same figure seen by the same point in 2022.
April 24: The Court of Appeal begins reconsidering if it is safe to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Suella Braverman had expanded the plan’s remit since it was ruled lawful by the High Court in December 2022, to include modern slavery victims and other small boat migrants.
April 24: Raza Husain KC told the Court of Appeal that Rwanda is not a safe country to receive asylum seekers from the UK, describing it as “a highly autocratic repressive state” that “imprisons, tortures, and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.
May 7: The former head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, attacks the Government’s plan, saying the country has a “dark” history and is still cast under the “shadow of genocide”.
June 29: The Rwanda deal is ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal, with judges concluding that it is not a “safe” country to forcibly deport asylum seekers. The decision said: “Unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum processes are corrected, removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful.”
July 13: The Government is given the go-ahead to make an appeal to the Supreme Court in a bid to get the Rwanda deportation policy off the ground.
August 7: Home Office says migrants should be sent to Ascension Island if Rwanda policy fails.
October 9: In a Home Office deportation case, the Government has argued at the Supreme Court that Rwanda is safe but “less attractive” than the UK.