Rwanda asylum policy: Migrants granted right to challenge

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Migrants facing potential removal to Rwanda under the Home Office’s relocation scheme have won permission to challenge the policy.

Last month the High Court ruled that the scheme was lawful.

Today’s ruling means there is no prospect of flights leaving immediately while it goes to the Court of Appeal.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said she is committed to making the Rwanda policy work.

Under the controversial scheme, asylum seekers who arrive from a safe country – such as in a small boat from France – can be told they will be sent to Rwanda, to have their claim for protection dealt with there.

The scheme has so far cost the UK £140m – but no migrants have been sent to the country.

During Monday’s High Court hearing, Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift said that 11 migrants could ask the Court of Appeal to consider whether Rwanda’s assurances to the UK amounted to sufficient guarantees of safe and fair treatment.

No date has been set for the case to go before the Court of Appeal, and the Home Office is abiding by an injunction from the European Court of Human Rights, which blocked flights until after British judges had finally ruled.

The court said the group could argue that sending them to Rwanda penalised them for seeking protection and that the entire plan is systemically unfair.

In December’s judgement, the High Court had ruled that while individual migrants earmarked for the Rwanda flights had been treated unfairly, the scheme as a whole was legally permissible and the government had acted rationally in choosing the African nation as a partner.

Asylum Aid, a charity, is also expected to lodge an appeal, saying that it can provide the court with expert evidence that Home Office decision-making is systemically unfair.

Three organisations who were part of the original case – Care4Calais, the PCSU union that represents immigration caseworkers and Detention Action, had their cases thrown out last December – but have another fortnight to consider trying to appeal.

This morning, the home secretary’s lawyers urged judges to only allow an appeal on issues that were genuinely compelling – while also acknowledging the case could progress to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal has ruled.

In practice, that could mean the plan could remain in limbo for much of 2023 – or even into next year if judges do not prioritise the appeals.

Ms Braverman has not said when she hopes a flight will leave for Rwanda.

Rishi Sunak has made ending English Channel crossings a priority and the Rwanda scheme aims to deter migrants from taking small boats across the sea.

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