Plans to deport some asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda are “inherently unlawful and unfair”, the High Court has been told.
Charlotte Kilroy KC, representing the charity Asylum Aid, told judges it was bringing a “systemic challenge” against the home secretary over the decision-making process for sending people to east Africa.
Asylum seekers could have their claims processed in as little as three weeks after arrival in a process that is “seriously unfair”, Ms Kilroy said.
In April, then-home secretary Priti Patel signed what she described as a “world-first agreement” to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda in an attempt to deter them from crossing the Channel.
So far this year, 36,459 people have arrived in the UK, according to government figures, as the number of arrivals spirals upwards. In 2018, 299 people were recorded making the journey. The next year, 1,843 crossings were recorded, with 8,466 in 2020 and 28,561 in 2021.
As it attempts to stem the flow of people arriving in the UK, the government — which had promised to be tough on migration — has also increased naval patrols and asked France to step up land operations.
Deportation flights have been grounded while the legal cases are fought.
“It's the claimant's case that the process is inherently unlawful and unfair,” Ms Kilroy said.
“It's structurally unfit for the decision-making required by the governing statute and immigration laws. It's procedurally unfair and it constitutes an impediment to accessing the court.”
Challenging the speed of the process, Ms Kilroy added in written submissions: “It is intended, absent delays introduced by legal challenges, to be capable of completion 'end-to-end', ie from start to removal, within two-three weeks.
“The procedure is seriously unfair and gives rise to a real risk that individuals may be removed from the jurisdiction without having had effective access to legal advice and thus to the courts.”
The court heard that after a notice of intent is issued, asylum seekers are given seven days' notice of their planned removal to Rwanda, which is increased to 14 days if the person is not in detention.
The Home Office will then make a decision, which may be accompanied by the formal removal direction that requires five working days' notice before the proposed removal date, judges heard later.
“There is a real problem with not giving people enough time to put their full case which has a chance of succeeding,” said Ms Kilroy.
“Seven, or even 14 days, is far too short a period to afford an effective opportunity to gather evidence and make representations on the wide range of complex issues raised,” she continued in written submissions.
The Home Office has argued that seven days will be “sufficient” in many cases and that individuals and their solicitors can request extensions.
Edward Brown KC, for the department, said in written arguments: “It is not an 'accelerated' process or a 'mirror' of any other system.”
He continued: “The process is designed to determine, without delay, the issue of admissibility and possible removal to Rwanda, while giving sufficient opportunity to the individual to make representations in relation to that decision.
“Any notionally longer standard time period, none having been identified, would inevitably disrupt the balance with other critical factors, such as the fact of immigration detention and the wider public interest in asylum, immigration and border control.”
He added: “The time periods are flexible and adequate to the procedure in question.”
The hearing before Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift is due to finish on Friday, with judgment in both cases expected at a later date.