Rwanda flight to remove asylum seekers from UK can go ahead, High Court rules

10 June 2022, 18:26 | Updated: 10 June 2022, 19:41

Campaigners have lost a High Court bid to block the Government's plan to send migrants to Rwanda
Campaigners have lost a High Court bid to block the Government's plan to send migrants to Rwanda. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The first scheduled flight to Rwanda to remove asylum seekers from the UK can go ahead, the High Court has ruled.

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Migrants due to be given a one-way ticket to the east African nation as part of Home Secretary Priti Patel's bid to curb Channel crossings - as well as campaign groups and a union - asked judges to block their upcoming deportation flight.

Up to 130 people had been notified they could be removed.

The court heard 31 people were due on the first flight on Tuesday, with the Home Office planning to schedule more this year.

Lawyers for almost 100 migrants had submitted legal challenges asking to stay in the UK with the remaining anticipated to follow suit.

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The first stage of action was brought on Friday by lawyers on behalf of two migrants alongside the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents more than 80% of Border Force staff, as well as groups Care4Calais and Detention Action who are challenging the policy on behalf of everyone affected.

Judge Mr Justice Swift ruled against the claim and said: "I do not consider that the balance of convivence favours the grant of the generic relief."

He added: "There is a material public interest in the Home Secretary being able to pursue her policy."

Shortly after the judgement, Mr Justice Swift granted the claimants permission to appeal, suggesting Court of Appeal judges would hear the case on Monday.

During the proceedings it emerged the Home Office had already cancelled removal directions for three people set to be on the first flight and that a further two will also have them cancelled.

The two remaining migrants who made the claim are still due to be removed on the flight.

During the hearing, Raza Husain QC, for the claimants, told the court the "procedure is simply unsafe" and called for an evidence-based assessment for the policy, "not an aspirational basis, or hopes".

The barrister later said that the agreement between the two countries, known as a Memorandum of Understanding, was "unenforceable".

"Nothing monitors it, there's no evidence of structural change. The risks are just too high," he added.

Mr Husain also told the court that assertions by the Home Office that UN refugee agency the UNHCR had given the plans the "green light" was a "false claim".

However, Home Office lawyers said legal action should not be allowed to derail the plans and urged the court to reject the application, arguing there was a "strong public interest in permitting these removals to proceed as scheduled" and a "clear public interest in deterring the making of dangerous journeys and the activities of criminal smugglers".

Priti Patel welcomed the ruling, saying the Government will "now continue to deliver on progressing our world-leading Migration Partnership".

She said: "People will continue to try and prevent their relocation through legal challenges and last-minute claims, but we will not be deterred in breaking the deadly people smuggling trade and ultimately saving lives.

"Rwanda is a safe country and has previously been recognised for providing a safe haven for refugees - we will continue preparations for the first flight to Rwanda, alongside the range of other measures intended to reduce small boat crossings."

Previously, the Home Office said it expected legal challenges but is "determined to deliver this new partnership" and insisted the policy "fully complies with international and national law" while Downing Street said Boris Johnson remains confident the policy is legal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "Welcome news from the High Court today. We cannot allow people traffickers to put lives at risk and our world leading partnership will help break the business model of these ruthless criminals."