Rwanda asylum plan: UK court allows removal flight planned for Tuesday

A flight to take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda next Tuesday has been allowed to go ahead by the High Court.

Campaigners failed in an initial legal bid to halt the removals to the east African country, but have confirmed they will take the case to the Court of Appeal on Monday.

Under the policy, some of those entering the UK illegally will be flown to Rwanda to apply for asylum there.

About 31 people have been told they may be on the first flight.

There will be a full judicial review, where the High Court will hear a challenge to the policy as a whole, before the end of July, it heard.

In his decision, the judge Mr Justice Swift accepted there was a “material public interest” in Home Secretary Priti Patel being able to carry out her policies.

Ms Patel praised his judgement and said the government would go ahead with its plans, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the ruling as “welcome news”.

However, campaigners who brought the case expressed concern for the welfare of people set to be “forcibly deported”.

One asylum seeker – an Iranian ex-police commander – who was told he will be deported on Tuesday has said he fears being killed by Iranian agents in Rwanda.

He has been held at a detention centre since arriving in the UK from Turkey in May.

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It comes as the Times newspaper reports the Prince of Wales has been privately critical of the government’s policy – quoting a source saying he thinks the approach is “appalling”.

Prince Charles is to represent the Queen in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, at a Commonwealth summit later this month. His office reiterated he remains “politically neutral”.

The government hopes the scheme will discourage asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel, by making it clear many cases will now be dealt with by Rwanda.

More than 10,000 people have made the dangerous sea journey so far this year.

While their application is considered by Rwanda those affected will be given accommodation and support and, if successful, will be able to remain there with up to five years’ access to education and support.

Those who fail in their asylum bids in Rwanda will be offered the chance to apply for visas under other immigration routes if they wish to remain in the country, but could still face deportation.

Campaigners had sought to block the flight from leaving, as well as individual people being placed on it.

Document telling asylum seekers they will be flown to Rwanda on 14 June 2022 and it is not an appealable decision
Image caption,
An excerpt of the document given to some asylum seekers by the Home Office
The case was brought by lawyers representing asylum seekers set to be deported, alongside the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) – which represents more than 80% of UK Border Force staff – and migration charities Care4Calais and Detention Action.

Their lawyers raised concerns about shortcomings in the Rwanda asylum system and the possibility that people could be sent on to countries where they would be persecuted – a process known as refoulement.

Home Office lawyers had told the court the plan must not be stopped by legal challenges because it was in the public interest, and also urged the judge to reject challenges on behalf of individual asylum seekers.

At the hearing, the UN’s refugee body, the UNHCR, also intervened to distance itself from the policy amid claims the Home Office has misrepresented its position on the scheme.

Lawyers for the UNHCR also said it had warned the Home Office twice that its arrangement with Rwanda was unlawful.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Swift ruled against a temporary block on the deportation flights before the full hearing on the policy in July.

He said he did not consider there was any evidence there would be “ill-treatment, refoulement” or anything that violated their rights under article three of the UK’s Human Rights Act.

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