UK Government Plan To Deport Asylum Seekers To Rwanda Is Legal, UK High Court Rules
The government’s highly controversial plan to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda is legal, the high court has ruled.
In a judgment that could have major ramifications for Rishi Sunak’s government, judges have dismissed an application from asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union to stop the Conservative government from acting on a deportation agreement with the central African country.
The ruling comes after Sunak prioritised the deterrence of people from seeking asylum in the UK. More than 44,000 people have arrived in the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats and several have died, including four last week when a boat capsized in freezing weather.
It is understood that some of the applicants, who include the civil service union PCS and the charities Care4Calais and Detention Action, will appeal against the judgment.
Under the deal, the UK would send some people who arrive in the UK as stowaways or in boats to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. Those granted asylum would stay in Rwanda rather than returning to the UK.
Britain has paid Rwanda £140m under the deal struck in April, but no one has yet been sent there. The UK was forced to cancel the first deportation flight at the last minute in June after the European court of human rights ruled the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm.”
Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is determined to press on with the policy, arguing that it will deter gangs who ferry people on hazardous journeys across the Channel’s busy shipping lanes.
Braverman, who has called the Channel crossings an “invasion of our southern coast” and in September said seeing a flight take off to Rwanda bearing asylum seekers was her “dream”, told the Times at the weekend that it would be “unforgivable” if the government did not stop the journeys.
“The Brexit vote was in part about migration, control over our borders and repatriating sovereignty on the question of who comes into our country,” she said. “This is an egregious example of how we haven’t taken back control.”
Human rights groups say it is illegal, unworkable and inhumane to send people thousands of miles to a country they do not want to live in. They also cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record, including allegations of torture and killings of government opponents.
The UK government has argued that while Rwanda was the site of a genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in 1994, it has since built a reputation for stability and economic progress. Critics say that stability comes at the cost of political repression.
The UK receives fewer asylum seekers than many European nations, including Germany, France and Italy. Some want to reach the UK because they have friends or family here, others because they speak English or because it is perceived to be easy to find work.
The government wants to deport all people who arrive by unauthorised routes, and aims to strike Rwanda-style deals with other countries. Critics say there are few authorised routes for seeking asylum in the UK, other than those set up for people from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.