UK’s first flight carrying migrants to Rwanda may go ahead, court rules

The British government overcame a legal challenge to its controversial policy to start deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda as the High Court rejected activists’ attempts to obtain an injunction and said the first flight could leave the next week.

Charities and a trade union had launched a challenge earlier this week against the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to the East African country.

Read also | Activists urge Commonwealth to pressure Rwanda on human rights

Judge Jonathan Swift on Friday refused to block the removal of Iraqi and Syrian asylum seekers and on Tuesday rejected an injunction barring the first flight to Rwanda.

“There is a significant public interest that the Home Secretary (Priti Patel) can implement immigration decisions,” Swift said.

He said some of the risks faced by deported asylum seekers described by charities were low and “in the realm of speculation”.

The move is a victory for Prime Minister Boris Johnson four days after being threatened with impeachment by some of his lawmakers. He said the plan would undermine smuggling networks and stem the flow of migrants risking their lives crossing the Channel in small boats from Europe.

Watch | UK to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda: UNHCR accuses UK of dishonesty

But Friday’s ruling is only an initial and partial victory as the court allowed human rights groups to appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeal, and individual complaints have been filed against the government .

The High Court will also hear a judicial review before the end of July, which could stall the government’s plans.

Johnson welcomed the court’s decision.

“We cannot allow traffickers to put lives at risk and our leading partnership will help break the business model of these ruthless criminals,” he said. Britain and Rwanda reached an agreement in April for the African country to accept the deportees.


The government’s plan has prompted an outcry from human rights groups, opposition lawmakers as well as some members of Johnson’s Conservative Party.

Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a Church of England leader based in Dover, where many of the migrants have arrived, said she was “deeply ashamed” of the court’s decision.

“It’s inhuman,” she said.

Around 30 asylum seekers have been selected for deportation. At Friday’s hearing, the government agreed to drop the immediate deportation of at least five other people.

During the hearing, Raza Hussain, the solicitor for Care4Calais, Detention Action and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents civil servants at the UK Home Office (Home Office), said that the scheme was dangerous and irrational.

Hussain said the government had made “misleading and inaccurate” claims that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had given it the green light and was acting on false assurances about Rwanda’s ability to deliver. protection for asylum seekers and to process their applications.

Government lawyer Mathew Gullick said the criticisms and concerns were retrograde and did not reflect how migrants would be treated. There was a “significant public interest” in deterring illegal immigration, he said.

Read also | UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Rwanda plan ‘working’, report says

Last year, more than 28,000 migrants and refugees made the crossing between mainland Europe and Britain. In November, 27 people drowned in the English Channel when their small inflatable dinghy deflated, and many more had to be rescued from the narrow seaway, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Under the government scheme, anyone who arrived in Britain illegally since January 1 could be relocated to Rwanda.

The government hopes the plan will deter Channel crossings, although more than 3,500 people have reached Britain in small boats since mid-April when the Rwandan scheme was unveiled, according to government figures.

Israel had previously attempted a similar plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. But in 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court blocked the policy, saying it was not compatible with the UN refugee convention.


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Post expires at 11:41am on Tuesday June 21st, 2022