Charities vow to fight on against ‘grotesque’ Rwanda deal as appeal against High Court considered

UN Refugee Agency had told court it was ‘not rational’ to argue Rwanda is a safe country for the scheme

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Monday 19 December 2022 12:58 GMT
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta signed the migration and economic development partnership in Kigali in April (Flora Thompson/PA)
Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta signed the migration and economic development partnership in Kigali in April (Flora Thompson/PA) (PA Wire)

Charities have vowed to “fight on” against plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda as they consider appealing a High Court ruling that the policy is lawful.

Groups who brought the challenge said they were looking at whether there were grounds for appealing Monday’s judgment, which quashed the individual decisions to remove eight asylum seekers but found the government’s plans legal overall.

James Wilson, the deputy director of detention Action, said: “We are disappointed that the High Court has found the removal of refugees to an autocratic state which tortures and kills people is lawful. However, we will fight on.

“The Rwanda policy is brutal and harmful and we will now consider an appeal against today's judgment.”

Care4Calais, which was also part of the case, said it was discussing next steps with its legal team ahead of a hearing on 16 January where any applications for permission to appeal will be heard.

Founder Clare Moseley added: “We are relieved for the individual claimants whom the court has ruled should not be removed to Rwanda.

“However, there are potentially thousands more people seeking asylum in the UK who are, right now and in the future, potentially facing the threat of removal to Rwanda under this cruel and unworkable policy. It is for all of them that we made this challenge and for them we must continue to pursue it.”

She said the charity “continues to believe this policy is unlawful” and that it was “appalling and grotesque” for the government to outsource asylum processing for small boat migrants.

The PCS union, which represents Border Force staff and was also behind the legal challenge, said it was also considering its position on a potential appeal. 

General secretary Mark Serwotka added: “Regardless of the legality of the policy, it remains morally reprehensible and utterly inhumane and we call on the Home Office to recognise that and abandon it.  

“The policy isn’t a deterrent. The only way to protect human life and prevent people from drowning in the Channel is to give them safe passage. PCS will continue our campaign to secure it.” 

Asylum Aid, which launched a separate legal challenge that also lost at the High Court on Monday, said it was “looking closely” to see whether there were grounds for appeal.

Director Alison Pickup said : “We urge the home secretary to re-think this inhumane policy and come up with one that can give us all faith in the asylum decision-making process. One that treats asylum applications with the seriousness they deserve and respects the human dignity of those seeking sanctuary here.“

Judges found said the British government had made arrangements with Rwanda to ensure asylum claims are “properly determined”, and that in those circumstances deportations would be consistent with the Refugee Convention, Human Rights Act and other legal obligations.

But the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had told the court that Rwanda was “not a safe third country” for the purpose of transferring asylum seekers from the UK and the agreement must not be implemented.

Priti Patel praises Rwanda as High Court challenge starts

Representatives said it was “not rational” to claim the opposite and that proceeding would breach the Refugee Convention.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, questioned the effectiveness of the government’s plans, saying: ”The Rwanda scheme is a damaging distraction from the urgent action the government should be taking to go after the criminal gangs and sort out the asylum system. It is unworkable, unethical and extortionately expensive.

“Ministers have already written a £140m cheque to Rwanda without the policy even starting, with millions more promised even though Home Office officials say there's no evidence it'll provide a deterrent and it risks making trafficking worse.”

Lord Justice Lewis quashed the decisions to remove eight people who launched legal challenges against plans to send them to Kigali, and said they must be reconsidered by the home secretary.

But he added: “We have concluded that it is lawful for the government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than the UK.”

The judge, who considered the case alongside Mr Justice Swift, said the policy announced by Priti Patel in April had been the “subject of considerable public debate”.

“The role of the court however is only to ensure that the law is properly understood and observed and that the rights guaranteed by parliament are respected,” he added.

Suella Braverman has previously said she expected the High Court ruling to be appealed, possibly going to the Supreme Court, and that the government had to “let that play out”.

Following Monday’s judgment, the home secretary 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 against any further legal challenge.” 

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in