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Rwanda policy High Court challenge to be heard in September

Lord Justice Lewis said there will be two hearings, with the first starting on September 5.

20 July 2022

A High Court challenge against the Government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda will take place in September, judges have ruled.

Several asylum seekers, along with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and charities Care4Calais, Detention Action and Asylum Aid, are bringing challenges against the plan to provide one-way tickets to the east African country.

The full judicial review of the policy at the High Court had been due to begin on Tuesday, but some of the groups bringing the case asked for a delay earlier this month to allow them to prepare.

In a judgment on Wednesday, Lord Justice Lewis said the main hearing will go ahead from September 5 for five days, with a second hearing in the claim brought by Asylum Aid taking place in October.

Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Mr Justice Swift, said: “We accept that there is a strong public interest in hearing this claim as soon as reasonably possible.

“The challenge is to arrangements adopted by the Government to give effect to a policy which it regards as in the public interest and which it considers may impact on the ability and willingness of persons to risk dangerous journeys by lorry or small boats across the English Channel.

“We are satisfied after careful consideration that the timetable that we have settled on will ensure all claimants can present their claims fairly.”

Lord Justice Lewis said both judgments are expected to be given at the same time.

He added: “We stress that we have not yet considered any evidence, or heard any argument, about the details of those claims.

“We are only dealing at this stage with procedural matters. This judgment does not, therefore, express any view on whether the arrangements are lawful or unlawful.”

The judge said two of the individual claimants, allegedly victims of trafficking, will have their cases heard after the main case, and other individual claims could be adjourned based on Home Office decisions in their asylum cases.

At a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, the court was told that recently provided documents showed that Rwanda had initially been excluded from the shortlist of potential countries “on human rights grounds”.

Migrant Crisis
A plane at MoD Boscombe Down which had been due to take asylum seekers to Rwanda before the flight was halted (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The documents provided earlier this month included several memos and internal communications from the Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Judges were told that in a note from March 2021, Foreign Office officials told then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab that if Rwanda was selected for the deportation policy “we would need to be prepared to constrain UK positions on Rwanda’s human rights record, and to absorb resulting criticism from UK Parliament and NGOs”.

In another memo, Foreign Office officials said they had advised Downing Street against engagement with several countries, including Rwanda, the court was told in written arguments.

The court was later told that the UK High Commissioner to Rwanda previously indicated that the east African country should not be used as an option for the policy, telling the Government it “has been accused of recruiting refugees to conduct armed operations in neighbouring countries”.

Another official memo in April this year said the “fraud risk is very high” and there is “limited evidence about whether these proposals will be a sufficient deterrent for those seeking to enter the UK illegally”, judges were told.

After Tuesday’s hearing, a UK Government spokesperson said: “Rwanda is a safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.

“We remain committed to delivering this policy to break the business model of criminal gangs and save lives.”

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