THE UK Government's plan to deport people to Rwanda is unlawful, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Robert Reed, the president of the Supreme Court, read out the judgment on Wednesday morning.

Reed focused on the principle of non-refoulement, a core pillar of international asylum law. This states that people cannot be sent back to a country where they may face persecution, torture, or other degrading treatment.

The judge said the key test was whether there are “substantial grounds” for believing that there was a risk of people sent to Rwanda being wrongly deported to their country of origin, where they might face such persecution.

Reed said: “In the light of the evidence which I have summarised, the Court of Appeal concluded that there were such grounds.

“We are unanimously of the view that they were entitled to reach that conclusion. Indeed, having been taken through the evidence ourselves, we agree with their conclusion.”

READ MORE: What is the ECHR and how does it relate to the Rwanda migrants policy?

The UK Government argued that Rwanda could be relied on to comply with the legal principle of non-refoulement, but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) raised concerns that the African nation may return genuine refugees to their country of origin.

Reed said the UNHCR had produced substantial evidence that Rwanda had a “failure to comply” with the principle of non-refoulement.

“UNHCR has unrivalled practical experience of the working of the asylum system in Rwanda … and its evidence requires careful consideration,” Reed said.

The five Supreme Court justices were unanimous in their ruling.

Reed stressed that the decision had been a purely legal one, and that the court was not expressing any political opinion in its ruling. 

Deporting asylum seekers to a third country has not been ruled unlawful, only sending them to Rwanda. If the UK Government is able to strike a deal with another nation, that could see a fresh legal battle.

The court had not been expecting to rule on the issue until the new year, but the decision was “expedited” due to the political nature of the case.

The decision is devastating for the Tory government, and backbench MPs are expected to call for the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

However, Reed made clear during the judgment that more laws were at play in the ruling than simply the ECHR, including British-made ones.

The National: Rishi Sunak promised professionalism and integrity when he came to power, but public expectations have fallen sharply since then (Justin Tallis/PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (above) is to hold a Downing Street press conference later on Wednesday to address the Rwanda ruling.

He said: “We have seen today’s judgment and will now consider next steps. This was not the outcome we wanted, but we have spent the last few months planning for all eventualities and we remain completely committed to stopping the boats.

“Crucially, the Supreme Court – like the Court of Appeal and the High Court before it – has confirmed that the principle of sending illegal migrants to a safe third country for processing is lawful. This confirms the Government’s clear view from the outset.

“Illegal migration destroys lives and costs British taxpayers millions of pounds a year. We need to end it and we will do whatever it takes to do so.

“Because when people know that if they come here illegally, they won’t get to stay then they will stop coming altogether, and we will stop the boats.”

The National: Alison Thewliss MP

The SNP's home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss (above) said: "It is right that the Supreme Court has shut down the Tory party's cruel plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda - the policy should never have been put on the table. It is morally wrong and inhumane.

"Under the Tories, there are rising numbers of people awaiting asylum decisions, safe and legal routes have been closed down, and many Home Office staff are being left without the resources they need. Westminster have made it clear they couldn't care less about some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

"Every asylum seeker and refugee should be treated with the utmost dignity and compassion. Scotland has a strong and proud record of welcoming refugees and will continue to stand by and offer sanctuary to those who need it."