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Campaigners vow to defeat Rwanda deportations scheme despite court ruling

by Bethany Rielly at the Royal Courts of Justice 

CAMPAIGNERS and trade unionists have vowed to continue fighting the Tories’ morally reprehensible Rwanda policy after the High Court ruled that the plans are lawful. 

On Monday, judges dismissed an application from asylum-seekers, charities and civil servants’ union PCS to stop the Tory government from carrying out its deportation agreement with the African country. 

Rights groups responded with dismay, describing the decision as a “dark day for the rights of the most vulnerable.” 

But the court also ruled that the cases of eight asylum-seekers involved in the challenge due to be sent to Rwanda in June would have to be reconsidered as the Home Office had not properly considered their individual circumstances. 

Groups who brought the legal challenge expressed relief at Mr Justice Swift and Lord Justice Lewis’s decision to quash the individual deportation orders, but said that the finding of the overall policy as lawful was bitterly disappointing. 

Following the judgement, PCS head of bargaining Paul O’Connor told the Star: “Even if the decision is found to be lawful, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s morally reprehensible — we will continue to campaign for safe passage going forward.”

Mr O’Connor said the union would not hesitate to challenge the decision if there are grounds for appeal. 

He added: “We take heart from the judgement today in respect of individual claims, because any asylum-seeker will now know that they have the option of judicial review.

“Hopefully, what this litigation has done is open that avenue of appeal for them.”

The other groups involved in the case — charities Detention Action and Care4Calais — also vowed to fight on “despite the disappointing judgment.” 

Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley said: “We remain steadfast in our opposition to the Rwanda policy and in our determination to ensure that no refugee is forcibly deported. 

“The Rwanda plan won’t end small-boat crossings and it won’t keep refugees safe. There is a kinder and more effective way: giving safe passage to refugees in Calais.”

The prospect of future challenges means it is unlikely there will be any deportation flights in the near future. 

In a statement to the Commons yesterday afternoon, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the ruling “thoroughly vindicates the Rwanda partnership.” 

The deal, she insisted, is a “humane and practical alternative to those who come here through dangerous, illegal and unnecessary groups.” 

Earlier, Ms Braverman said the government stands “ready to defend against any further legal challenges.”

During the five-day hearing in September, lawyers for the campaigners had argued that the policy was unlawful and described Rwanda as a “one-party authoritarian state that repeatedly imprisons, tortures and murders those it thinks are political opponents.”

Court documents revealed that Foreign Office officials had repeatedly warned the Home Office against deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda due to the country’s poor rights record. 

In a rare intervention, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR also argued that asylum-seekers deported to Rwanda were at risk of being removed to their home countries: a crime known as refoulement.

But today the two judges rejected these arguments. 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 that the plans are consistent with the Refugee Convention and the Human Rights Act (1998). 

The judges also ruled that the Home Secretary can rely on assurances given by the Rwandan authorities that relocated asylum-seekers will be treated fairly. 

Funding promised by the UK to Rwanda to carry out the policy provides a “real incentive against any mistreatment … of any transferred person,” the judges claim. 

But rights groups said they remain concerned that the plan undermines international law and called on Ms Braverman to abandon the policy. 

“We remain gravely concerned that the government’s Rwanda deal seriously undermines international refugee law and rides roughshod over the rights of people seeking asylum in the UK,” said Amnesty International’s refugee & migrant rights director Steve Valdez-Symonds.

Human Rights Watch UK director Yasmine Ahmed said: “It is a dark day for the rights of the most vulnerable and the legal protections established for those seeking sanctuary in the wake of the second world war.”

Branding the scheme “unworkable, unethical and extortionately expensive,” shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said there was no evidence the costly scheme would provide deterrence — and could make trafficking worse.

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