Court bid launched to stop UK from deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda

Lawyers seek judicial review as British government says it was first flight to take off on June 14 as planned

One of the migrant camps in northern France, from where people try to reach Britain through a dangerous voyage across the English Channel. Photo: Care4Calais
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Charities in Britain have launched a legal bid to stop the government's plan to start deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda next week.

They have asked for a judicial review in the High Court in London against what they call the “unlawful policy” while officials say they want the first flight to take-off next week, on June 14, as planned.

The new Rwanda plan is a central part of government policy, even as it attracts widespread criticism from human rights groups dealing with asylum seekers and local groups in the UK and France ― where they work with the desperate people caught in the policy.

Two charities, Care4Calais and Detention Action, and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents civil servants in Britain's Home Office, said lawyers had submitted papers seeking a judicial review of the scheme, and an injunction to block the June 14 flight.

James Wilson, deputy director of Detention Action, said Home Secretary Priti Patel had “overstepped her authority”.

The building in Kigali, Rwanda, will be used to house migrants sent from the UK. AFP

“By rushing through what we say is an unlawful policy, she is turning a blind eye to the many clear dangers and human rights violations that it would inflict on people seeking asylum,” he said.

“It's vital that new government policies respect and uphold the laws that we all, as a society, have agreed to follow. That's why we're seeking an injunction to keep this plane to Rwanda from leaving the runway.”

Of the 130 people identified for a place on the first flight, about 80 have filed appeals and the remainder are expected to do so this week, the Daily Mail reported.

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said most of those being detained pending their removal are “overwhelmed by total shock and despair”.

“Many came to the UK believing it to be a good place that would treat them more fairly than the places from which they escaped. We say that the Rwanda plan is unlawful. We hope the courts will agree with us,” she said.

Concerns over immigration were a major factor in the 2016 vote for Britain to leave the EU, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been under pressure to deliver on his promise to “take back control” of Britain’s borders.

This week, the number of people arriving in Britain through the English Channel reached 10,000.

Last year, 28,526 people made the Channel crossing, up from 8,466 in 2020. In 2019, the number stood at 1,843, while only 299 crossed in 2018.

The highly dangerous voyage from France crosses one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with asylum seekers using often unseaworthy vessels that can barely stay afloat.

It has become a political hot potato in Britain, where the government wants to limit migration but has a duty to asylum seekers. For the migrants, the English Channel is the last leg of a desperate journey that starts in Africa, Asia or the Middle East.

In November, 27 people drowned when their small rubber dinghy sank, and many others had to be rescued.

Under the government scheme, anyone who has arrived in Britain illegally since January 1 could be relocated to Rwanda.

Humanitarian groups, including the Refugee Council and British Red Cross, have criticised the Rwanda plan.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said “draconian policies … are doing little to deter desperate people jumping on boats because they do nothing to address the reasons people come”.

Mr Solomon called on the UK to have a “grown-up conversation with France and the EU about sharing responsibility”.

“We need a fair and humane asylum system, which means well thought-out, long-term solutions that address why people are forced from their homes, and provides them with safe routes to the UK,” he said.

Updated: June 08, 2022, 3:34 PM