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Rule of LawUnited Kingdom

UK court rules Rwanda deportations plan lawful

December 19, 2022

London's High Court said Britain's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal. A planned deportation flight in June was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The first flight to Rwanda after being canceled in June 2022
The first flight to Rwanda photographed after being canceled in June 2022Image: Vudi Xhymshiti/AA/picture alliance

London's High Court ruled on Monday that the British government's plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal.

However, the court also ruled that the government failed to consider the circumstances of the individuals it tried to deport, leaving the plan open to legal challenges.

The ruling came in response to lawsuits filed by several asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials' union. 

The UK has planned to send thousands of migrants who arrived in the country by sea to Rwanda, which is about 6,400 kilometers (3,977 miles) away from its shores.

Britain has paid Rwanda 120 million pounds ($146 million; €138 million) under the deal, but no one has yet been sent to the country. 

British PM Rishi Sunak has announced plans to clamp down on illegal immigration. His administration wants to restart the flights to Rwanda, despite opposition from other political parties, as well as international bodies like the UN. 

European rights court blocked deportations

The initial deportation flight was blocked in June, due to a last-minute injunction by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).  

Although the government's move is declared legal, there could be further appeals in Britain's courts. The ECHR injunction prevents immediate deportations until legal action is concluded.

The asylum seekers' lawyers said the government's policy does not comply with human rights conventions. They also said Rwanda does not have the capacity to deal with the migrants, and some of them could be returned to the countries they came from, such as Syria, Sudan and Iraq.

The government says the move will deter migrants from crossing over to the UK for refuge. The policy is based on Australia's program of sending migrants to Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

"The sooner it is up and running, the sooner we will break the business model of the evil gangs" of people-smugglers, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

The opposition Labour Party's Yvette Cooper, however, slammed the plan as "unworkable, unethical (and) extremely expensive."

More legal challenges against asylum plan likely

Detention Action and Asylum Aid, who challenged the policy was considering an appeal against the court's decision.

Rights group, Amnesty International said it was "bitterly disappointed" by the ruling.

"We remain gravely concerned that the government’s Rwanda deal seriously undermines international refugee law and rides roughshod over the rights of people seeking asylum in the UK," said Steve Valdez-Symonds, the group's Refugee and Migrant Rights Director.

Christina Marriott, director of policy at the British Red Cross, said "the offshoring of human beings'' would "do little to prevent people from risking their lives to reach safety.''

"The government should instead take action to provide safe routes, ensure timely and correct decisions are made once people are in system, and that people are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process," she said.

Paul O'Connor of  of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents border staff, called the government's policy "morally reprehensible.''

"Anyone who thinks this litigation is going away any time soon should probably think again," he said. 

Britain's policy toward migrants

The plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was first announced by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It was carried forward by his successor Liz Truss, and then Sunak.

Braverman has said it is her "dream" to finally see a plane carrying migrants take off for the Rwandan capital Kigali

Immigration has become an important topic of discussion among voters in the country, even though the UK receives fewer asylum seekers than many European nations, including Germany, France and Italy

However, a record number of migrants, more than 40,000, have arrived from France to the UK this year. Many are from Iran, Afghanistan, or other war-torn countries and want to seek asylum in Britain.

Last week, a boat with migrants sank while crossing the English Channel, killing four migrants.

lo, tg/fb  (AP, AFP, Reuters)