Britain's Home Office accused of continuing to misrepresent UN over Rwanda deportations

Flights to send asylum-seekers to the African country were grounded at the last minute by legal action in June

The UK intended to provide those deemed to have arrived unlawfully with a one-way ticket to Rwanda. EPA
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The UN's refugee body has accused the UK's Home Office of continuing to misrepresent its support for Britain's controversial Rwanda removal policy, The Guardian newspaper has reported.

The first deportation flights to the African country scheduled for June 14 were grounded at the last minute after the European Court of Human Rights granted interim injunctions to stop deportees being sent there.

A UNHCR assessment that asylum seekers do not have access to “fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status” in Rwanda was at the centre of the European court’s ruling.

A court hearing is scheduled for September to determine the lawfulness of the Rwanda policy.

Before reaching the ECHR, several applications for injunctions had been made at the UK’s High Court and Supreme Court. At the time, the courts heard that the Home Office misled refugees about UN involvement in the UK’s Rwanda plans.

However, recent correspondence between The Guardian and the Home Office revealed that British officials continue to claim that their Rwanda asylum scheme has the support of the UNHCR.

The newspaper was in touch with the Home Office after a critical assessment of the UK’s Rwanda plans was published by the charity Asylos last week.

A Home Office representative responded to the enquiries saying: “Our own assessment of Rwanda has found it is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers, including working with the UN Refugee Agency, which said the country has a safe and protective environment for refugees.

"As part of our partnership, the UK is providing an initial investment of £120 million ($142.3m) to boost the development of Rwanda, including jobs, skills and opportunities, to benefit both migrants and host communities.”

Last year, the UNHCR supported an emergency transit mechanism with the EU, which evacuates the most vulnerable refugees in Libya to Rwanda.

But a representative for the UN agency said that they had “serious concerns with regard to specific shortcomings” in the UK’s asylum processing proposal as well as the African country’s “capacity to offer long-term solutions for those being removed”.

When the UNHCR joined in the proceedings against the Home Office brought by migrants and campaign groups to stop the deportation flights, the court heard that the UNHCR had concerns about the asylum process in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum, a lack of legal representation and interpreters, and difficulties in appealing.

Lawyers for the UN told the courts at the time that it found there had been “inaccuracies” in the way the agency’s views had been described by the Home Office.

Updated: July 17, 2022, 10:02 PM