Ministers are increasingly concerned Supreme Court judges will thwart the Government’s bid to end the Channel migrant crisis.
Multiple Whitehall sources believe the Home Office only has a 40% chance of winning the landmark legal battle. And insiders revealed a defeat in the Supreme Court will fire the starting gun on a campaign to leave the ECHR.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick admitted “much” of the Government’s bid to end small boat crossings “will depend on the Supreme Court’s judgement”.
He said: “We have seen a substantial reduction in the number of small boat crossings this year versus last year. I don’t pretend that that is enough, but it does show that the plan that we put in place a year ago is beginning to work.”
Addressing criticism that the Government has only reduced crossings, rather than stopping them, Mr Jenrick said: “I’m not pretending that we have succeeded, this is job done, I’m saying that our plan is beginning to work.”
He added: “We’re around a quarter reduction now in small boats versus last year. And if you compare that to Italy and much of Europe, small boat arrivals are up by 100.
“We are delivering. There’s clearly a long way to go, and much will depend on the Supreme Court’s judgement with respect to our Rwanda policy… but we are making progress.”
Supreme Court judges are ruling on an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal which stated there was a risk migrants could be forced back to the country they had originally fled from.
This would be in breach of the ban on putting people at risk of torture in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
A Tory source said: “There is growing pessimism about the Supreme Court. It’s finely balanced but probably 60/40 against a win.
“If we lose, it’s got to be election campaign mode on getting us out of Strasbourg – put the old Vote Leave gang back together and run it relentlessly. We would run day after day of stories to put Labour on the back foot.”
Government sources suggested a 60 per cent chance of defeat was “right”. One said: “We’ve done well this year – today small boat arrivals are down 32 per cent on 2022 (a third) versus a 100 per cent increase in Italy. That’s been hard won and is a good start. But Rwanda is critical to going further and eliminating the crossings.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has warned a “hurricane” of mass migration is threatening the UK.
Former immigration minister Kevin Foster told the Daily Express: “The migration deal with Rwanda provides a practical and humane option for breaking the business model of people trafficking gangs.
“The Supreme Court should look at the reality of what blocking this would mean, more people being trafficked in boats to the UK, and how this deal does safeguard the rights of those being transferred.
“The court should also note how in the UNHCR’s submissions, they stand in contrast to its own actions in resettling refugees to Rwanda.”
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Sir James Eadie KC, acting for the Home Office, argued that Rwanda has a “very powerful incentive” to ensure it operates a “safe system.”
The Government has paid Kigali £140 million in the deal, which officials believe many European governments want to replicate.
Mr Eadie also told the court on Tuesday that Rwanda had “pretty strong financial incentives” that would encourage them to treat asylum seekers properly.
He also said that an extensive monitoring scheme had been set up by the UK government to oversee asylum decisions made by Rwanda.
Mr Eadie also said ending the Channel migrant crisis was in the public interest.
He said: “There is a serious and pressing need to take effective steps that will act as a deterrent to those undertaking the perilous and sometimes life-threatening journey, typically across the Channel from a safe country, normally France,” Eadie said.
“There is, we submit, a strong public interest in that legitimate, indeed key, policy aim,” he added.
He told the UK’s highest court that the policy to remove people to “a country less attractive” than the UK, “but nevertheless safe”, is lawful.
But Raza Husain KC, who represents a number of asylum seekers, argued that the UK government’s monitoring would “lack teeth”, and would not be able to act quickly enough if any abuses took place.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Illegal migration is a complex, global issue, and one which requires fresh solutions. Our Migration Partnership with Rwanda offers just that.
“We await the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, but we are confident in our case after the outcome of the High Court and the dissenting in the Court of Appeal.”
“Our relationship with Rwanda is strong and we remain completely committed to delivering this policy to prevent more lives from being put at risk in the Channel.
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