Rwanda deportation plan: First flight taking asylum seekers to African country can go ahead, says Court of Appeal

·3-min read

The Court of Appeal has ruled the first deportation flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda can go ahead later today.

Human rights campaigners had appealed against a decision by a lower court last week to allow the one-way trip but the appeal court said it "cannot interfere" with the original decision.

The flight to the capital Kigali is scheduled to take place with 11 asylum seekers onboard.

Activists have argued that the government policy is inhumane and will put migrants at risk.

But officials have said the strategy will deter people from making dangerous Channel crossings from France in flimsy small boats run by smugglers.

The Home Office believes the removal plan for some migrants who arrive illegally in the UK is in the public interest and must not be stopped.

Referring to the decision made by the High Court on Friday, Lord Justice Singh said on Monday: "We consider that the judge produced a detailed and careful judgment which is all the more impressive in view of the time constraints under which he had to give it" in this "urgent and important case".

The judges refused permission for an appeal to the Supreme Court against their decision.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents around 80% of Border Force staff, had brought Monday's case, alongside charities Care4Calais and Detention Action.

Another challenge, this time in the High Court, was also dismissed.

Asylum Aid, a refugee charity, had applied for an urgent interim injunction to stop the government flying migrants to Rwanda.

Lawyers for the charity argued the procedure adopted by ministers was unfair. But Mr Justice Swift ruled against Asylum Aid.

Downing Street has said that it remains the government's plan for the flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda to go ahead on Tuesday as planned.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "We certainly intend for there to be a flight. That still remains the plan."

As of Friday, around 130 people have been told they could be moved to Rwanda under the new scheme.

Lord Justice Singh suggested that the number on Tuesday's flight could now be in single figures.

Raza Husain QC, for two people at risk of removal and the three organisations challenging the government's policy, had earlier said Mr Justice Swift's decision last week contained errors of principle or was "plainly wrong".

He focused on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) concerns about Britain's asylum flights.

The UN refugee agency holds an unequivocal position that the flight should not proceed.

Mr Husain said it was "abundantly clear" the Home Office's view that Rwanda is a "safe third country" for asylum claims "was predicated on a complete misunderstanding" of the views of the UNHCR.

He added that asylum seekers "must be seen as a particularly underprivileged and vulnerable population group".

He also said there is evidence of risks to individuals citing a UNHCR example of protests by refugees in Rwanda against food ration cuts in 2018, adding that "12 individuals were killed, 66 were arrested and some remain detained".

Read more:
What is it like to be a refugee in Rwanda?
Asylum seeker says he would rather die than be sent to Rwanda
Why are migrants being sent to Rwanda and how will it work?

Therefore, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is "concerned that persons of concern relocated from UK to Rwanda may be at significant risk of detention and treatment not in accordance with international standards should they express dissatisfaction through protests after arrival".

Mr Husain told the packed courtroom that British law says it has "never been a criminal offence to arrive in the UK without relevant documents".

Prince Charles is said to have privately called the government's plans "appalling".

But Boris Johnson has again defended the controversial policy, claiming the move is necessary to stop illegal people-smuggling rackets on either side of the Channel.

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