Offshoring to Rwanda? Not today!
We are delighted that the highly controversial plan to begin removing asylum seekers to Rwanda yesterday (Tuesday 14th June) fell apart following a series of legal challenges, high-profile criticism, and campaigning by activist groups and charities. The first flight was cancelled minutes before take-off due as the European Court of Human Rights intervened.
Under the government’s new scheme, anyone who arrived in the UK by routes deemed ‘illegal’ under the Nationality and Borders Bill is eligible to be removed to Rwanda for processing and asylum. The plan faced significant pushback, with the number of asylum seekers expected to be on the first flight falling from 130 to 31 last Friday, to just seven on Tuesday. Most of the asylum seekers successfully appealed on the grounds that removal to Rwanda would breach their human rights.
On Friday, a High Court judge rejected campaigners’ bid for an injunction to stop the Home Office’s first deportation flight to Rwanda, despite evidence from the UNHCR that the plans are illegal and unsafe. This was appealed and the case was heard on Monday at the same time as Asylum Aid’s urgent interim injunction which looked to prevent any flights from leaving. The injunction, supported by Freedom from Torture, and the appeal both failed.
However, a ruling by the ECHR on Tuesday evening for one of the seven individuals which found that he faced “a real risk of irreversible harm” if he remained on the flight to Rwanda allowed lawyers for the other six to make successful last-minute applications and the flight was eventually cancelled.
This first flight dealt a string of embarrassments for the home secretary, Priti Patel, who had promised to start sending thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda in May and had chartered the plane at a cost of £500,000.
The legality of the Rwanda policy will be tested in a full court hearing next month. For now, the government remains steadfast in their plans to continue the scheme. Find out what you can do to stop it here.