UK’s plan to deport refugees to Rwanda faces last-gasp challenge | Migration News

The Court of Appeal and the High Court are hearing arguments against the UK’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

London’s courts have begun to hear two last-minute legal challenges to block the British government’s controversial policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The government is promising to push ahead with the planeload of 31 claimants on a chartered flight on Tuesday from an undisclosed airport.

The authorities have not provided details of those selected for deportation, but charities say they include people fleeing Afghanistan and Syria.

It defeated an attempt to halt the plan on Friday in the High Court, brought by two refugee charities and a trade union which called it immoral, dangerous and counterproductive.

But the same groups have filed an emergency appeal for Monday, alongside a separate legal challenge, and have been heartened by Prince Charles reportedly dubbing the plan “appalling”.

Alongside the Court of Appeal hearings, the High Court is separately hearing arguments from Asylum Aid, a refugee charity, which launched a second legal challenge to stop the government from flying refugees to Rwanda.

The charity said the government’s plan to give asylum seekers seven days to obtain legal advice and to present their case to avoid deportation is flawed and unfair.

This case is heard by the same judge who on Friday rejected the first request for an injunction.

Legality of the plan

The claimants include the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), whose members in the United Kingdom Border Force are tasked with executing the deportations.

PCS chief Mark Serwotka noted that as part of its judgement on Friday, the High Court had scheduled a fuller hearing for next month on the legality of the plan overall.

“Imagine if you’re told to do something on Tuesday, that in July is subsequently found to be illegal. That would be an appalling situation,” he told Sky News broadcaster on Sunday.

A protester holds up a placard at a gathering close to the Brook House immigration removal centre beside Gatwick Airport [File: Niklas Hallen/AFP]

Home Secretary Priti Patel should wait for the July hearing if she “had any respect, not just for the desperate people who come to this country, but for the workers she employs”, Serwotka added.

“We’re absolutely confident that in July, in line with what the UNHCR said very graphically in court, we believe these proposals will be found to be unlawful.”

However, Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are unbowed, insisting the policy is needed to stop a flood of all-too-often deadly migrant crossings of the Channel from France.

Under the agreement with Kigali, anyone landing in the UK illegally is liable to be given a one-way ticket for processing and resettlement in Rwanda.

Dismantling the business model

The government says that will dismantle the business model of gangsters who charge would-be migrants thousands of dollars to undertake the perilous crossing for a new life in the UK.

Genuine asylum claimants should be content to stay in France, it says.

And contradicting the UNHCR, it insists that Rwanda is a safe destination with the capacity to absorb possibly tens of thousands of UK-bound claimants in future.

For now, the deportations will proceed “on a gradual basis”, Doris Uwicyeza, chief technical adviser to Rwanda’s justice ministry, told LBC radio.

Uwicyeza pushed back at criticism over the human rights record of President Paul Kagame’s government – which is set this month to host a Commonwealth summit attended by Prince Charles and Johnson.

Rwanda’s genocide of the 1990s made it particularly attentive to “protecting anybody from hate speech and discrimination”, including gay people, she said. But British critics of the new policy are unconvinced.

They include Charles, according to The Times newspaper on Saturday, prompting unnamed cabinet ministers to tell Queen Elizabeth II’s heir to stay out of politics in the Sunday Times.