UK appeal court ruling due on controversial Rwanda asylum plan
Appeal court judges in London will on Thursday rule on whether the UK government’s controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful, after a legal challenge by migrants and campaigners.
Former prime minister Boris Johnson brought in the proposal to try to tackle record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel from northern France by small boats.
But it triggered a wave of protests from rights groups and charities, while last-gasp legal challenges successfully blocked the first deportation flights last June.
Several individuals who arrived in small boats, and organisations supporting migrants, brought a case to the High Court in London, arguing that the policy was unlawful on multiple grounds, including the assessment of Rwanda as a safe third country.
Two High Court judges in December dismissed the claims, saying its only remit was “to ensure that the law is properly understood and observed, and that the rights guaranteed by parliament are respected”.
The claimants then took their case to the Court of Appeal.
Whoever loses is likely to take the case to the UK Supreme Court, meaning the plan is unlikely to implemented any time soon.
The High Court concluded last year that the relocation of asylum-seekers to Rwanda was “consistent with the (UN) Refugee Convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the government including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998”.
The judges, however, said Interior Minister Suella Braverman — an immigration hardliner — had not properly considered the circumstances of the eight claimants in the case and referred their cases back to her.
Tackling asylum claims has become a political headache for the ruling Conservative government in London, despite its promise to “take back control” of the country’s borders after Britain’s departure from the European Union.
More than 11,000 people have already crossed the Channel from northern France this year, while the backlog of asylum claims being processed has reached record levels.
Johnson’s short-lived successor Liz Truss and the incumbent Rishi Sunak have backed the Rwanda deal, which aims to send anyone deemed to have entered the UK illegally since January 1 to the African nation.
Sunak and Braverman have both said urgent action is needed to break the smuggling gangs and to prevent further tragedies in the Channel.
The main opposition Labour party, however, said the government’s plan would “do nothing” to stop the dangerous sea crossings, with its home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper calling it “unworkable” and “unethical”.
An impact assessment report released this week estimated that the plan will cost £169,000 ($210,000) per person, but that most of those costs would be recouped by not having to accommodate the claimants.
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