A controversial UK government plan to remove asylum seekers who arrive in the UK through so-called “irregular routes” to Rwanda has been ruled lawful by the UK High Court after organisations and individuals brought judicial reviews against the policy, opening a path for the government to begin removing people to Rwanda.
In their ruling, Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift wrote that:
“the government has made arrangements with the government of Rwanda which are intended to ensure that the asylum claims of people relocated to Rwanda are properly determined in Rwanda”
and that under these circumstances:”
the relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda is consistent with the Refugee Convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the government including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998.”
Response from charities
The first judicial review hearing, involving claims brought by the charities Detention Action, Care4Calais, the PCS Union and a number of individuals, took place in early September, while the second hearing, involving the claim brought by the charity Asylum Aid, took place in October. During the first hearing, witness evidence from Freedom From Torture’s specialists was put before the court, stating that the accelerated process provided by the Rwanda policy gave the Home Office insufficient evidence to make a decision on the vulnerability and risks faced by survivors of torture threatened with removal.
While the challenges by Detention Action, Care4Calais, the PCS Union and Asylum Aid were unsuccessful, individual claims by eight individuals threatened with removal to Rwanda were found to have been “not properly considered” by the government and ruled unlawful. The government will now have to make new decisions on their cases.
In September, a detailed clinical review by the charity Medical Justice found that many asylum seekers threatened with removal to Rwanda may have been tortured or trafficked into the UK. The charity was joined by the British Medical Association, Freedom from Torture, and other medical charities in calling on the Government to abandon the Rwanda policy.
In October, Privilege Style, a Spanish charter airline which the UK government hired to fly refugees to Rwanda, officially pulled out of the scheme, following months of campaigning by Freedom from Torture and their supporters.
Kolbassia Haoussou, Director of Survivor Empowerment at Freedom from Torture, said:
“When I fled torture and persecution in my homeland, the UK granted me sanctuary and a chance to rebuild my life. As a survivor of torture, I am deeply concerned that the Rwanda policy will endanger people like me and deny them the safety and security needed for a proper recovery.”
“Survivors have been at the forefront of campaigns urging the government to change direction. I hope that anyone who wants the UK to help those fleeing war and persecution will support their campaigns and join the movement for an asylum system that treats people with humanity and compassion.
Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive at Freedom from Torture, said:
“Freedom from Torture is concerned that today’s decision fails to recognise the serious risks that the Rwanda Removals Policy presents for survivors of torture.
“The policy’s inadequate assessment procedure will prevent the government from taking into account, at least in many cases, a critically important factor in deciding whether an individual is suitable for removal under the Rwanda Removals Policy: whether they are a survivor of torture.”