Charities and asylum seekers face wait for Rwanda policy High Court ruling

Charities and asylum seekers face wait for Rwanda policy High Court ruling

Charities and asylum seekers who brought legal bids against Government plans to deport some people to Rwanda now face a wait for a decision after more than a week of hearings.

Challenges have been brought against the policy announced by then-home secretary Priti Patel in April, which she described as a “world-first agreement” with Rwanda in a bid to deter migrants from crossing the Channel.

However, the first deportation flight – due to take off on June 14 – was grounded amid a series of legal challenges against individual removals and the policy as a whole.

On Friday, two judges at the High Court in London heard the end of arguments in a challenge brought by the charity Asylum Aid over the proposals to provide one-way tickets to the east African nation.

Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Mr Justice Swift, said they would give their decision on the claim at a later date.

“We will want to consider very carefully all the evidence and all the arguments…It is going to take a little bit of time,” Lord Justice Lewis said.

On Thursday, the court was told that the policy’s procedure is “inherently unlawful” and that asylum seekers could be removed to Rwanda within three weeks of arriving in the UK.

“The procedure is seriously unfair and gives rise to a real risk that individuals may be removed from the jurisdiction without having had effective access to legal advice and thus to the courts,” Charlotte Kilroy KC, for the charity, argued in written submissions.

The Home Office has defended the claims, arguing the time scales involved were “sufficient” in many cases and that extensions were available.

“This is a flexible procedure which is reflexive to the full spectrum of cases that come before it,” Edward Brown KC, for the Home Office, told the court.

In written submissions, Mr Brown added: “The process is designed to determine, without delay, the issue of admissibility and possible removal to Rwanda, whilst giving sufficient opportunity to the individual to make representations in relation to that decision.”

Asylum Aid’s hearing comes after a linked case brought by several asylum seekers, along with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action.

Lord Justice Lewis previously said that rulings in both cases would be given at the same time.

During a five-day hearing in September, lawyers for the groups and individuals argued that Rwanda is an “authoritarian state” that “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Refugees presented Tory delegates with ‘one-way tickets’ to Rwanda during a protest outside the Conservative Party annual conference (Jacob King/PA)

UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency – later told 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.

However, Home Office lawyers argued that the Rwandan authorities have given “detailed assurances” over the processing of asylum claims and the ongoing treatment of individuals.

Sir James Eadie KC and Lord Pannick KC, for the department, previously told the court that the agreement between the UK and Rwanda contains “very significant safeguarding elements”.

The scheme should be judged “on its own context and on its own terms”, Sir James said, adding that it would be “carefully and independently monitored” by the UK Government, a “bespoke monitoring committee” and the UN Refugee Agency.

The policy has also been challenged on data protection grounds, with a Sudanese man arguing that his personal data has unlawfully been shared with the Rwandan authorities.

Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift will also give their decision in this claim at a later date.