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Another blow to Home Office as Rwanda asylum seekers not tagged on release from detention

Ministers accused of piloting ‘unworkable’ tagging policy on basis of ‘cruel and unnecessary political posturing’

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 11 July 2022 18:44 BST
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Priti Patel’s plans to tag asylum seekers to prevent them from absconding has rarely been used
Priti Patel’s plans to tag asylum seekers to prevent them from absconding has rarely been used (PA Wire)

The majority of asylum seekers threatened with removal to Rwanda have not been tagged on release from detention despite the Home Office’s intention for them to be fitted with the devices.

Ministers have been accused of creating policy on the basis of “cruel and unnecessary political posturing rather than necessity and efficacy” after it emerged that the plan to tag this cohort to prevent them from absconding has rarely been put into effect.

Guidance published by the Home Office on 15 June, the day after the first intended flight to remove asylum seekers to east Africa was grounded, outlined that under a new pilot some of those who travel to Britain via “unnecessary and dangerous routes” would be fitted with electronic tags.

It states that if GPS monitoring conditions are breached, asylum seekers may be considered for detention and removal, subject to administrative arrest, or prosecuted.

Boris Johnson later hit back at criticism of the plan, saying it was introduced in order to “make sure that asylum seekers can’t just vanish into the rest of the country”.

However, lawyers say that most asylum seekers who were detained ahead of the flight on 14 June have now been released without tags, after bail judges ruled – or the Home Office conceded – that it would not be appropriate to subject them to these conditions.

Pierre Makhlouf, legal director at Bail for Immigration Detainees, which assists detainees to apply for bail, said the charity has so far provided representation in 16 cases for people subject to the Rwanda plan, all of whom have been granted bail and all but two of whom have been released untagged.

He added that the “overwhelming majority” of judges decided not to impose electronic monitoring.

He compared the failed measure with the Rwanda removal policy itself, saying: “The Home Office keeps trumpeting harsh and cruel policies, but the reasons why they fail to deliver is because of the very harshness and cruelty that is involved.

“That is the inevitable consequence of creating policy on the basis of cruel and unnecessary political posturing rather than necessity and efficacy.

“The government’s approach to electronic monitoring is unlawful if it does not take into account the particular circumstances of each case.”

The Home Office guidance published last month states that while evidence of medical issues, torture and modern slavery would be considered when deciding whether to tag an asylum seeker, these factors do “not in [themselves] prohibit imposing such a condition”.

“In many cases, even where there is some evidence in favour of removing electronic monitoring, on balance it may still be appropriate to maintain electronic monitoring due to other relevant factors,” it states.

Graeme McGregor, campaigns manager at Detention Action, said: “We’ve supported many people ankle-tagged by the Home Office who have told us how humiliating this practice is.

“Even if only used rarely, the Home Office policy of ankle-tagging people threatened by the Rwanda policy is clearly unworkable and an affront to their rights and dignity.”

Jonah Mendelsohn, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said the Home Office had been seeking to impose GPS monitoring conditions under the pilot on vulnerable clients who suffer from mental health conditions and who survived trafficking and torture before arriving in the UK.

“These cases point to an arbitrary and ad hoc approach to the imposition of GPS monitoring conditions under the pilot without consideration of the personal circumstances of the individuals involved,” he added.

It comes after the courts granted an application for an adjournment of the judicial review into the lawfulness of the Rwanda policy. It was set to be heard on 18 July but has been adjourned until September.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government will not be deterred as we plan for the next flight to Rwanda.

“The tagging policy is currently being piloted to test its effectiveness, but migrants continue to be tagged so to suggest it doesn’t work is wrong. Suitability assessments are made before any decision to apply electronic monitoring.”

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