Northern Ireland court blocks UK law sending migrants to Rwanda

BELFAST: Northern Ireland’s High Court ruled on Monday (May 13) that parts of the United Kingdom’s flagship immigration policy should not apply in Northern Ireland as they undermine human rights protections guaranteed in post-Brexit arrangements.

The Illegal Migration Act, passed last year, means those who arrive in the UK illegally are prevented from claiming asylum, instead facing removal either to their home country or a so-called safe third country like Rwanda.

Political parties in the British-run province, which, like Scotland, has a separate legal system from England and Wales, said the judgement made the controversial Rwanda scheme unworkable. 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to press ahead, saying it “changes nothing” about the government’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda from as early as July. “Nothing will distract us from that or delivering to the timetable I set out,” he said, announcing an appeal. 

There has already been a spate of legal challenges to the UK government’s efforts to cut record levels of irregular migration, particularly from “small boats” crossing the Channel from northern France. 

In November last year, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the deportation plan was illegal under international law. But Sunak pushed through legislation recently in parliament that deems Rwanda a safe country, allowing flights to go ahead and decision-makers to disregard aspects of human rights law. 


The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission argued that the Illegal Migration Act breaches the UK’s domestic and international obligations under a deal signed by London and the European Union governing post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

That deal — the Windsor Framework — guarantees there would be no reduction of rights safeguarded by Northern Ireland’s 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian conflict, even if that meant that the British province’s laws differed from the rest of the UK.

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