Belfast Judge Rules UK’s Rwanda Plan Breaks Human Rights

A judge in Belfast ruled on Monday that the UK’s new law that allows it to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda should not apply in Northern Ireland, arguing that parts of the law violated the human rights of asylum seekers.

High Court Justice Michael Humphreys determined that the Illegal Migration Act undermined the rights laid out in the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement and was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Illegal Migration Act is central to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s controversial plan to deport some illegal migrants to Rwanda.

The prime minister said his government would appeal the ruling and insisted that Justice Humphreys’ decision would not delay the deportations which are set to begin in July.

The law was challenged by a 16-year-old Iranian who claimed asylum in the UK last year and now lives in Northern Ireland.

Attorney Sinéad Marmion, who brought the case to the Belfast High Court on behalf of the Iranian teen, described the judge’s ruling as “a huge thorn” in the Sunak government’s side. She said the decision was a “huge obstacle” to implementing the deportation plan in Northern Ireland.

Sunak promoted the Rwanda plan as a way to deter the thousands of illegal migrants from making the perilous journey across the English Channel to seek asylum in the UK. The law allows the government to deport those who illegally arrive in the UK to a “safe” third country where their asylum claims are processed.

After the UK Supreme Court struck down the flights saying Rwanda was not safe, Parliament passed a bill declaring Rwanda a safe country, making it harder for illegal migrants to challenge deportation. The bill also allows the UK to ignore injunctions issued by the European Court of Human Rights.

Judge Humphreys determined that some elements of the Illegal Migration Act violated human rights protections included in the Windsor Framework, a deal signed between the European Union and Great Britain last year that required the UK to honor the Good Friday peace accord that brought an end to the conflict between Irish Nationalists and British unionists in Northern Ireland.