UK court says flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda can go ahead

Protesters hold up placards as they gather close to the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre beside Gatwick Airport, south of London [File: Niklas Hallen/AFP]

UK Court of Appeal rules that the first flight to take asylum seekers to Rwanda can go ahead on Tuesday.

Judges have thrown out last-gasp attempts by campaigners to stop the United Kingdom sending its first flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday, a plan the United Nations’ refugee chief described as “catastrophic”.

Charities and a trade union had launched an appeal against the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to the East African nation after the High Court on Friday ruled the first planned flight could take place.

Judge Rabinder Singh said on Monday the Court of Appeal could not interfere with the High Court judge’s “clear and detailed” judgement, and refused permission for further appeal.

The government is promising to push ahead with the chartered flight on Tuesday from an undisclosed airport. The authorities have not provided details of those selected for deportation.

Amid legal challenges, the number of people scheduled to leave on the plane, which charities said originally included people fleeing Afghanistan and Syria as well as Iran and Iraq, had now fallen to less than a dozen.

A High Court judge refused on Friday to grant a temporary injunction to block the flight, and on Monday three justices on the Court of Appeal upheld that decision.

A second legal challenge at the High Court was also later rejected, with judge Jonathan Swift saying everyone on the flight had been given access to a lawyer to challenge their deportation.

Human rights group say the policy is inhumane and will put asylum seekers at risk.

The UNHCR has said Rwanda, whose own human rights record is under scrutiny, does not have the capacity to process the claims, and there is a risk some migrants could be returned to countries from which they had fled.

“We believe that this is all wrong … for so many different reasons,” UN High Commissioner For Refugees Filippo Grandi told reporters. “The precedent that this creates is catastrophic for a concept that needs to be shared like asylum.”

Initially, some 37 individuals were scheduled to be removed on the first flight, but the charity Care4Calais said that number has dwindled to just eight. Three more individuals will have their cases heard at the High Court on Tuesday morning.

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

Dismantling the business model

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel insist 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.

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.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here