On the 29th of June 2023, the Court of Appeal ruled in its judgment AAA and others v. The Secretary of State for the Home Department. The case concerned ten individual asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Sudan and Albania and one charity, Asylum Aid. The applicants appealed against the decision of the High Court of Justice which stated that the “Rwanda deal” was not unlawful on generic grounds but that the implementation of the Home Office was flawed. The Home Office decided not to consider the individual applicants’ asylum claims and remove them to Rwanda where their claims would be decided under the Rwandan asylum system in accordance with the Migration and Economic Development Partnership which includes the Memorandum of Understanding and several diplomatic “Notes Verbales”. These Notes include assurances from the Rwandan government, used by the UK to classify Rwanda as a “safe third country”.
The Court of Appeal gave a majority judgment by Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, dissented and would have dismissed the appeal. Sir Geoffrey Vos ruled that there are substantial grounds to believe that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda will face real risks of mistreatment under Article 3 ECHR. That is the consequence of Rwanda’s historical record described by the UNHCR, the significant concerns of the UNHCR itself, and the factual realities of the current asylum process in Rwanda. He further noted that Rwanda can only deliver on its good faith assurances if it has control mechanisms and systems in place to enable it to do so. Both history and the current situation demonstrate that those mechanisms have not yet been delivered. Moreover, asylum claim processes are not attended by third parties hence it will be impossible to ensure that they are fair. On top of that, appeals before the Minister and court are largely untested. Furthermore, he highlighted that the institutions responsible for asylum seekers arriving from the UK are those who committed past violations.
Lord Justice Underhill also ruled that the relocation of asylum-seekers to Rwanda would involve their claims being determined under a system which has serious deficiencies which were not yet corrected and are not likely to be in the short term. Furthermore, the judge ruled that there were substantial grounds to believe that asylum-seekers relocated to Rwanda were at real risk of refoulement, and that accordingly such relocation would constitute a breach of article 3 ECHR and contravene section 6 of the Human Rights Act.