PCS 'ready to fight' as Sunak pledges to appeal Rwanda scheme court decision

Civil service union says fight against the policy is “far from over”
Rishi Sunak leaving No.10. Photo: Joe Maida/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

30 Jun 2023

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to challenge the Court of Appeal ruling that the government's plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful – while civil service union PCS has warned the fight against the policy is “far from over”.

"While I respect the court I fundamentally disagree with their conclusions," Sunak said yesterday.

"Rwanda is a safe country. The High Court agreed. The UNHCR have their own refugee scheme for Libyan refugees in Rwanda. We will now seek permission to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court.

"The policy of this government is very simple, it is this country – and your government – who should decide who comes here, not criminal gangs. And I will do whatever is necessary to make that happen."

PCS, alongside a group of asylum seekers and campaign organisations including Care4Calais and Detention Action, brought legal action against government's Rwanda scheme to the High Court last year.

In December, the High Court ruled the scheme was lawful, but the original claimants brought forward a further legal challenge to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal has now ruled the scheme is unlawful,  deciding there were "substantial grounds" for believing that there is a real risk those sent to Rwanda could be returned to their home countries where they face persecution, putting them at risk.

PCS head of bargaining Paul O’Connor, who has been leading the union’s campaign against the policy, called the decision “a vindication of our position”.

“We do not take litigation lightly, but we could not stand by and allow our members to be subjected to stressful, dangerous and hostile working conditions; nor could we stand by and allow refugees to be subjected to this inhumanity,” he said.

O’Connor urged the government to drop the scheme and instead adopt a safe passage policy which would allow refugees to have their asylum claims “properly and safely considered” and officials “to do their jobs without consistently ridiculous political interference”.

The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said PCS “recognises that the fight against this government’s disgraceful anti-immigration agenda is far from over”. 

“As we have demonstrated through our work with Care4Calais and Detention Action, our union will not stand idly by as refugees are subjected to inhumane policy proposals and inflammatory rhetoric by this government,” he added.

The Rwandan government criticised the Court of Appeal decision. A spokesperson for the Rwandan government said they "take issue" with the ruling that it is not a safe country, promising that migrants would be welcomed and supported.

This story includes additional reporting by PoliticsHome's Zoe Crowther

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