Judges in London on Monday ruled the UK government’s controversial plan to deport migrants to Rwanda was lawful after a legal battle brought by migrants and activists.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson put forward a proposal to try to cope with record numbers of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats from northern France.
But it sparked a wave of protests from rights groups and charities, and last-minute legal actions successfully blocked the first deportation flights in June.
Several individuals, who arrived in small boats, and organizations supporting migrants filed a complaint in the High Court in London to have the policy reviewed, claiming it was unlawful.
Lawyers for the parties argued that the policy was unlawful on a number of grounds, including the designation of Rwanda as a safe third country.
The judges acknowledged that the matter had sparked public debate but said their only role was to “ensure that the law is properly understood and complied with and that the rights guaranteed by Parliament are respected”.
“The court has concluded that it is lawful for the government to make arrangements for the relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be decided in Rwanda and not in the UK,” reads a summary.
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“The relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda is in accordance with the (UN) Refugee Convention and with the Government’s statutory and other legal obligations, including those imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998.”
However, the judges said Home Secretary Suella Braverman failed to adequately consider the circumstances of the eight applicants in the case and referred their cases back to her.
– “Morally reprehensible” –
Processing asylum claims has become a political issue for the ruling Conservative government in London, despite its promise to ‘take back’ control of the country’s borders after Britain leaves the European Union.
More than 43,000 migrants crossed the English Channel this year.
Johnson’s short-lived successor, Liz Truss, and incumbent Rishi Sunak have backed the Rwanda Accord, which aims to send to the African nation anyone who has entered Britain illegally since January 1.
Sunak and Braverman have both said urgent action is needed to prevent further tragedies in the English Channel. Four people died last week when their boat capsized in freezing water.
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Both welcomed the verdict. “We’ve always maintained that this policy is legitimate, and today the court upheld that,” Braverman said, insisting it will help the displaced “build a new life.”
Sunak told reporters during a visit to Riga that the Rwanda plan, coupled with measures announced last week – including a deal with Albania to tackle the growing numbers from that country – would allow the government “to get a grip on illegal migration receive”.
But the main opposition party, Labor, said the government’s plan would “do nothing” to halt dangerous sea crossings.
Domestic policy spokeswoman Yvette Cooper branded the plan as “unworkable” and “unethical” and a “harmful distraction from the urgent action the government should take to prosecute the criminal (trafficking) gangs and regulate the asylum system.” “.
The Rwandan government called the ruling a “positive step” towards solving the global migration crisis.
Asylum seekers from Syria, Iran and Iraq, the self-help groups Care4Calais and Detention Action and the union PCS, whose members would have to carry out the deportations, were involved in Monday’s decision.
Detention Action’s James Wilson said the Corpse was “very disappointed with today’s outcome” but would “regroup and consider next steps”.
Paul O’Connor of the PCS said the policy remains “morally reprehensible” despite the verdict and an appeal to block deportations could be “seriously” considered.
Amnesty International called for the plan to be “abandoned in its entirety”.