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UK court rules on moving migrants to Rwanda

The court delivered a positive verdict in a case of eight individual asylum-seekers, but dismissed challenges to the policy as a whole

The UK’s plan to deport illegal immigrants to Rwanda is “lawful,” the British high court ruled on Monday, dismissing a challenge to the policy from a handful of asylum seekers, several migrants’-rights NGOs, and a border officials’ union. 

However, two judges declared the government had failed to take into account the individual circumstances of eight asylum-seekers it had tried to deport on the scheme’s aborted first flight in June.

It is lawful for the government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom,” Lord Justice Lewis said in the court’s decision, qualifying that the government must also weigh whether “anything about each person’s particular circumstances” might preclude relocation to the central African nation. 

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A Spanish-registered Boeing 767 stands off on a Ministry of Defence runway to take migrants from Amesbury, Wiltshire, England. ©Vudi Xhymshiti / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
European court blocks UK deportation flight

Under the terms of the agreement, Rwanda would process the asylum claims of individuals arriving in the UK illegally and host those whose applications are approved. Home Secretary Suella Braverman explained the policy was meant to discourage migrants from making the dangerous crossing, adding the government ultimately hopes to make similar deals with other countries to reroute all illegal immigrants elsewhere. She has called the 40,000-plus migrants crossing the English Channel this year an “invasion” and vowed to ban anyone who “jumps the queue” in this way from remaining in the UK.

The UK and Rwanda inked the £140 million migration deal in April, though the first scheduled deportation flight carrying eight migrants was postponed as the plane sat waiting to take off in June, with the European Court for Human Rights insisting the policy involved “a real risk of irreversible harm.” 

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The groups who challenged the policy are expected to appeal Monday’s decision. “Treating people who are in search of safety like human cargo and shipping them off to another country is a cruel policy that will cause great human suffering,” Ever Solomon, head of the Refugee Council, said in a statement on Monday. Opponents of the policy have cited Rwanda’s poor human rights record, including the infamous 1994 genocide that saw 800,000 people slaughtered.

December 19, 2022 at 10:38PM
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