High Court rules UK Government plan to deport asylum seekers is lawful

The first flight to Rwanda was grounded in June after legal challenges.

High Court rules UK Government plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful iStock

Plans by the UK Government to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful, the High Court has ruled.

Legal action was brought by charities and asylum seekers over the proposals.

The policy was first announced by then-home secretary Priti Patel in April.

In June, the first scheduled deportation flight that was due to take off was grounded amid a series of legal challenges.

At the court in London on Monday, senior judges rejected arguments that sending individuals to the east African nation were unlawful.

Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Mr Justice Swift, dismissed the challenges against the policy as a whole.

However, he ruled in favour of eight asylum seekers, finding the Government had acted wrongly in their individual cases.

In a summary of his ruling, Lord Justice Lewis said: “The court has concluded that it is lawful for the Government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom.

“On the evidence before this court, the Government has made arrangements with the government of Rwanda which are intended to ensure that the asylum claims of people relocated to Rwanda are properly determined in Rwanda.”

The judge added: “However, the home secretary must consider properly the circumstances of each individual claimant.

“The home secretary must decide if there is anything about each person’s particular circumstances which means that his asylum claim should be determined in the United Kingdom or whether there are other reasons why he should not be relocated to Rwanda.

“The home secretary has not properly considered the circumstances of the eight individual claimants whose cases we have considered.

“For that reason, the decisions in those cases will be set aside and their cases will be referred back to the home secretary for her to consider afresh.”

Home secretary Suella Braverman stated her intention to move ahead with the policy “as soon as possible”.

She said: “Our ground-breaking migration partnership with Rwanda will provide individuals relocated with support to build new lines there, while disrupting the business model of people smuggling gangs putting lives at risk through dangerous and illegal small boat crossings,” she said.

“We have always maintained that this policy is lawful and today the court has upheld this.

“I am committed to making this partnership work – my focus remains on moving ahead with the policy as soon as possible and we stand ready to defend any further legal challenge.”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the policy is “wrong in principle and unworkable in practice”.

“We are very disappointed in the outcome of this case,” said Solomon following the decision.

“If the Government moves ahead with these harmful plans, it would damage the UK’s reputation as a country that values human rights and undermine our commitment to provide safety to those fleeing conflict and oppression, as enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

“Treating people who are in search of safety like human cargo and shipping them off to another country is a cruel policy that will cause great human suffering.

“The scheme is wrong in principle and unworkable in practice. The possibility of being sent off to Rwanda is causing huge distress to those we work with, including young people who are becoming extremely anxious and in some cases, self-harming.”

Priti Patel, the architect of the Rwanda plan, said: “I welcome the High Court ruling my world-leading economic and migration partnership with Rwanda is lawful.

“No single policy will stop the Channel crossings, but this important policy will save lives, help break the business model of criminal gangs and prevent asylum abuse.

“Ministers must now press ahead with implementing this world-leading partnership with the resources I put in place.”

The Scottish Refugee Council insisted that because something is legal does not make it right, as they described it as a “dark day” for human rights in the UK.

Calling it the “worst possible news”, they added: “The UK Government’s abhorrent UK-Rwanda deal does nothing to resolve the many problems of the UK asylum system.

“Instead, it threatens to destabilise the international system of refugee protection. We will continue to oppose this inhumane and unworkable (policy).”

The SNP’s home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss suggested the UK is no longer seen as setting a positive example to the rest of the world.

“Whether legal or not, this move is deeply immoral and will only serve to engender those the UK Government has a duty to protect,” said Thewliss.

“Those fleeing war, famine and oppression deserve and need our full support. Instead, the Tories have chosen to make scapegoats of desperate people in a disgusting attempt to cover up their own domestic policy failings.

“Countries like the UK should act as a beacon of hope and serve as a positive example to the rest of the world.

“Sadly that is no longer how the UK is viewed and so it falls upon an independent Scotland to show a just and humanitarian welcome to whoever needs it, whenever they need it.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael insisted the Government should focus on stopping dangerous Channel crossings, as well as tackling the smugglers and traffickers.

“Whether or not it is lawful, the Conservatives’ Rwanda asylum plan is immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers,” he said.

“It will do nothing to stop dangerous Channel crossings or combat people smuggling and human trafficking – instead it will give criminal gangs more power and profits.

“The Conservatives are betraying the UK’s proud tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing war and persecution and breaching our commitments under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

“Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money defending this policy through the courts, the Government should be focusing on stopping these dangerous crossings and tackling the smugglers and traffickers by providing safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees.”