The Government has lodged a bid to take a legal battle over its Rwanda deportation policy to the UK’s highest court.
Ministers are seeking permission to bring a Supreme Court challenge over a ruling that plans to send asylum seekers to the east African nation are unlawful.
In a majority decision last week, Court of Appeal judges overturned an earlier High Court ruling which found Rwanda could be considered a “safe third country”.
The Government has since filed its bid to challenge the Court of Appeal judgment, a court spokesperson said.
In last week’s ruling, Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill concluded “deficiencies” in the asylum system in Rwanda mean there is a “real risk” asylum seekers could be returned to their home country and face persecution or other inhumane treatment when they may have a good claim for asylum.
Campaigners welcomed the appeal decision, with charity Asylum Aid which brought the challenge alongside several asylum seekers, describing the ruling as a “vindication of the importance of the Rule of Law and basic fairness when fundamental rights are at stake”.
The judgment marked the latest setback in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bid to “stop the boats” – one of his flagship pledges.
Sunak has since declined to say when he will fulfil his promise of stopping small boat crossings on the Channel but denied it is on hold while the Rwanda policy is grounded by court challenges.
Facing questions from senior MPs on Tuesday, Sunak also denied he has no plan B if the Supreme Court does not overturn the ruling blocking the forceful removal of asylum seekers to Kigali.
Sunak has also previously refused to guarantee the first flight to Rwanda would take off by the end of the year amid the ongoing legal battle.
Following the Court of Appeal ruling, home secretary Suella Braverman hit out at “phoney humanitarianism” hindering efforts to stop Channel crossings and claimed the system was “rigged against the British people”.
But Labour said the decision showed the Government’s efforts were “completely unravelling”.
The Rwandan Government said it took “issue” with the Court of Appeal’s decision and insisted it was “one of the safest countries in the world”.
More than 50,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the Channel since the Government signed the multi million-pound Rwanda deal over a year ago.
Under Supreme Court rules, Home Office lawyers need to first ask the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the Rwanda ruling, and if refused they are then given the chance to ask the Supreme Court directly.
If the Government is given the go-ahead to bring a Supreme Court appeal, lawyers for both sides will appear before up to five justices at the court in Westminster, with a further decision in writing to follow.