Government’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are ruled lawful by High Court


Government plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda are lawful, the High Court ruled today – paving the way for ministers to prepare a new deportation flight. 

Priti Patel announced the policy in April as part of a ‘world-first agreement’ to stop migrants from crossing the Channel, but the first flight – due to take off on June 14 – was grounded after legal challenges to individual removals and the policy as a whole.

Today, two senior judges rejected arguments that the proposal to provide one-way tickets to the east African nation were unlawful, but ruled in favour of eight asylum seekers whose cases were ‘not properly considered’.

Following the decision, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said she was ‘committed’ to the policy and ‘stood ready’ for any further legal challenges. Downing Street said it wanted the plan to be implemented as soon as possible but said it was impossible to put a timetable on that while the possibility of further legal action remained. 

The news is a boost to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who said it would be her ‘dream’ to send a flight of Channel migrants to Rwanda

Rwanda Q&A: So can flights now take off? 

What happened today?

High Court judges ruled that the Government’s Rwanda policy is lawful, rejecting claims by refugee charities that it breaches human rights laws and the Refugee Convention.

How did we get to this stage?

Priti Patel announced the Rwanda plan as part of a ‘world-first agreement’ to stop migrants from crossing the Channel, but the first flight – due to take off on June 14 – was grounded after legal challenges to individual removals and the policy as a whole .

Further challenges were lodged by the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid. The High Court heard two judicial reviews analysing the legality of the deal, which were ruled up this morning.

Does this mean flights to Rwanda will begin straight away?

No. While Downing Street said it wanted the plan to be implemented as soon as possible but said it was impossible to put a timetable on that while the possibility of further legal action remained.

What happens now?

Applications to appeal against this morning’s ruling have been delayed until January 16.

How has Rwanda’s government reacted?

Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said: ‘We welcome this decision and stand ready to offer asylum seekers and migrants safety and the opportunity to build a new life in Rwanda.

‘This is a positive step in our quest to contribute innovative, long-term solutions to the global migration crisis.’

The country’s government will receive £120 million as part of the trial scheme, with the potential for increasing these payments if it proves a success. 

Why do ministers want to send migrants to Rwanda and who could be sent? 

The plan is intended for anyone who comes to the UK by ‘illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods’, such as on small boats which cross the English Channel. 

It is designed to deter economic migrants by showing that even if they reach British shores, they will not be allowed to remain here.

If the scheme works as expected, thousands of asylum seekers will end up further away from Britain than where they started. It will also undermine the business models of people traffickers, who have been driving migrants to sea in increasingly unsafe conditions.

Why was the original flight stopped?

The first planned deportation flight was blocked in June by a last-minute injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The court ruled that a 54-year-old Iraqi man, understood to have travelled to the UK by boat in May and who may also have been tortured in the past, could not leave the UK. 

It said the UK Government could not remove KN until three weeks after a full judicial review by the UK High Court has taken place into the legality of the Rwanda policy. 

In a summary of the ruling read out in court, Lord Justice Lewis said: ‘The court has 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 in the United Kingdom.’

He added: ‘The relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda is consistent with the Refugee Convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the Government, including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998.’

In their 139-page judgment, Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift said: ‘It is a fair point that, to date, the number of claims handled by the Rwandan asylum system has been small…it will take time and resources to develop the capacity of the Rwandan asylum system.

‘However, significant resources are to be provided…the number of persons that will be transferred will depend on the consent of the Rwandan government, taking account of its capacity to deal with persons in the way required.’

The judges continued: ‘The Memoranda of Understanding makes provision for significant financial assistance to Rwanda. That is a clear and significant incentive towards compliance with the terms of the arrangement.’ 

However, the judges said that the Home Secretary ‘has not properly considered’ the eight individuals’ cases, which meant the decisions to send them to Rwanda would be quashed and sent back to be reconsidered. 

Lord Justice Lewis said a further hearing would take place in mid-January to handle the consequences of the judgment, including costs and applications to go to the Court of Appeal.

At a five-day hearing in September, lawyers for several asylum seekers – along with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action – argued the plans are unlawful and that Rwanda ‘tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents’.

UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – intervened in the case, telling the court that Rwanda ‘lacks irreducible minimum components of an accessible, reliable, fair and efficient asylum system’ and that the policy would lead to a serious risk of breaches of the Refugee Convention.

At a further hearing in October, lawyers for the charity Asylum Aid also challenged the policy, arguing that the procedure is ‘seriously unfair’ and also unlawful, with asylum seekers put at risk of being removed without access to legal advice.

The Home Office defended the claims, with lawyers arguing the memorandum of understanding agreed between the UK and Rwanda provides assurances that ensure everyone sent there will have a ‘safe and effective’ refugee status determination procedure.

People deported to Rwanda will be provided with ‘adequate accommodation’, food, free medical assistance, education, language and professional development training and ‘integration programmes’, judges were told, as part of plans that have cost at least £120 million.

Today’s news is a major boost to the Home Secretary who has said it would be her ‘dream’ to send a flight of Channel migrants to Rwanda

She said this morning: ‘Our ground-breaking Migration Partnership with Rwanda will provide individuals relocated with support to build new lives there, while disrupting the business model of people smuggling gangs putting lives at risk through dangerous and illegal small boat crossings.

‘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.’  

The Desir Resort Hotel in Kigali is set to house asylum seekers under the Rwanda agreement

The Desir Resort Hotel in Kigali is set to house asylum seekers under the Rwanda agreement 

The Desir Resort Hotel has a swimming pool, an outside bar and restaurant and spa facilities

The Desir Resort Hotel has a swimming pool, an outside bar and restaurant and spa facilities

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said of the Rwanda plan: ‘We want it to be done as soon as possible. I don’t think, while there is possibility of further legal action, we can put a specific timeframe on it.

‘But as I say, no court has ruled this policy illegal, in fact, quite the opposite, so we will look to push ahead with this as soon as possible. ‘

Asked if there would be any flights in 2023, the spokesman said: ‘I can’t put a timeline on it. A lot will depend on if there is further legal action taken.’

Boris Johnson, whose government introduced the Rwanda policy, welcomed the court ruling that it is lawful.

The former prime minister tweeted: ‘It is welcome news that the High Court has ruled that the Rwanda policy is lawful. It is one of the only humane ways of dealing with the vile people trafficking gangs who are exploiting so many people.’

Meanwhile, former home secretary Priti Patel, the architect of the initiative, said: ‘I welcome the High Court ruling my world-leading Economic and Migration Partnership with Rwanda is lawful.

‘No single policy will stop the Channel crossings, but this important policy will save lives, help break the business model of the criminal gangs and prevent asylum abuse.

‘Ministers must now press ahead with implementing this world-leading partnership with the resources I put in place.’ 

Lord Justice Lewis

Mr Justice Swift

Lord Justice Lewis (left) and Mr Justice Swift (right) today ruled that the Rwanda plan was legal 

Teenager charged over last week’s tragedy

A teenager has been charged in connection with last week’s tragedy that saw four migrants perish when a dinghy deflated in the Channel.

Ibrahima Bah, 19, of no fixed address, was arrested on Friday and is facing a charge of facilitating attempted illegal entry.He will appear before Folkestone magistrates’ court today.

Rescuers managed to recover 39 people from the dinghy during the incident last Wednesday. Police are still working to establish the identities of the dead.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said: ‘The Rwanda policy has been tested all the way to the Supreme Court on injunctive relief. The Supreme Court upheld the Government’s position.

‘Now the High Court has confirmed the legality of the Rwanda decision – having heard extensive legal arguments from top lawyers on both sides.

‘Left-wing organisations need to stop using endless appeals to overturn democracy and waste taxpayers’ money. It’s time they accepted the determination of UK courts.

‘Let’s all get behind action to stop the small boats crossings, save lives at sea and prevent people falling prey to organised criminality.’

Meanwhile, Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said: ‘We welcome this decision and stand ready to offer asylum seekers and migrants safety and the opportunity to build a new life in Rwanda.

‘This is a positive step in our quest to contribute innovative, long-term solutions to the global migration crisis.’

However, Labour branded the Government’s Rwanda plan ‘unworkable’ and ‘unethical’. 

The first Rwanda flight - due to take off on June 14 - was grounded after legal challenges to individual removals and the policy as a whole

The first Rwanda flight – due to take off on June 14 – was grounded after legal challenges to individual removals and the policy as a whole  

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: ‘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, extortionately expensive.

Hotel owner nicknamed ‘Goldfinger’ rakes in £60,000 a month putting up migrants 

By Jaya Narain and Claire Duffin for the Daily Mail  

A controversial hotelier dubbed ‘Goldfinger’ is raking in up to £60,000 a month housing migrants.  

Abid Gulzar (bottom) has handed over his 45-room country house hotel near Eastbourne to accommodate up to 100 migrants. 

The Indian-born 78-year-old, who owns three gold Teslas and wears large gold rings, stands to make more than £700,000 of taxpayers’ money a year housing migrants. And he says both his other hotels – the Mansion Lions and Albany Lions in Eastbourne – are also up for grabs if the Government wants them. 

The Home Office policy of housing migrants in hotels at huge cost to the public purse has caused fury.

 

In the last six weeks up to 100 migrants have been placed in Mr Gulzar’s Boship Hotel. He said: ‘The hotel trade is really suffering… what else are we supposed to do? No one is coming to stay any more.’

Mr Gulzar prompted controversy when he painted the traditional domes on Grade II*-listed Eastbourne pier in gold, earning himself the moniker Goldfinger. He also owns Hastings pier.

 In 2019 his businesses, Mansion Lions Hotel Ltd and Albany Lions Hotel Ltd, were fined £4,000 each for failing to pay tax contributions. And in 2013 he was fined £45,000, with £90,000 in costs, after being found guilty of damaging a protected conservation site in Pevensey.

‘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.

‘The Rwandan government has said it can only process 200 people a year – or 0.5% of Channel crossings this year. It’s no surprise that the Home Secretary herself has described the scheme as a failure.’ 

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats called the initiative ‘immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly’. 

Refugee charities also voiced their opposition to today’s ruling.  

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: ‘Treating people who are in search of safety like human cargo and shipping them off to another country is a cruel policy that will cause great human suffering.’ 

Amnesty International UK said the Rwanda plan should be ‘abandoned in its entirety’. 

Meanwhile, Josie Naughton, chief executive of migrant charity Choose Love, said the ruling ‘flies in the face of international commitments and accountability’, adding that campaigners will ‘continue to fight’ for the ‘human right to seek asylum’. 

She said: ‘Today’s ruling will tear apart families, prolong persecution and put victims of torture and trauma in danger once again.

‘A dark cloud is now hanging over the UK’s once celebrated record on human rights. Hostility has come at the expense of compassion, and the country is turning its back on the principle that all should have rights to live in freedom and without pain. It sets a dangerous precedent for evading international and moral commitments towards those seeking asylum.’

Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, said the charity was ‘concerned that today’s decision fails to recognise the serious risks that the Rwanda removals policy presents for survivors of torture.’

James Wilson, 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.’ 

Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais added: ‘We are disappointed with the outcome and are discussing next steps with our legal team. We remain steadfast in our opposition to the Rwanda policy and in our determination to ensure that no refugee is forcibly deported.’

Katy Chakrabortty, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam GB, said: ‘The High Court’s ruling is deeply disappointing. But just because something is legal, does not make it humane.’



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