Judges allow partial appeal against Rwanda asylum seeker ruling | UK news
Two judges who ruled that the Home Office’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda to have their cases processed was lawful have granted permission for parts of their decision to be challenged at the court of appeal.
The ruling in the high court on Monday was welcomed by those challenging the judgment of Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift last month.
In that ruling, the two judges found the Home Office’s controversial policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, including some who arrive after crossing the Channel from northern France in small boats, was lawful. They dismissed an application from eight asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union to try to prevent the Rwanda policy from going ahead. However, they identified flaws in the Home Office’s decision-making process for the eight asylum seekers, whom officials had planned to send to Rwanda, and quashed those decisions.
In their ruling on Monday in response to the organisations’ and individual asylum seekers’ bid to challenge the decision that the Rwanda policy was lawful, the same judges rejected five of the grounds of appeal but granted permission on four others.
They accepted that the individual asylum seekers involved in the case have “standing” – the legal right to pursue an appeal – but found that the organisations – the PCS union and the charities Care4Calais and Detention Action – do not.
The judges gave the green light for an appeal to proceed on grounds including whether the agreement drawn up between the UK and Rwandan governments to process asylum seekers in the east African country includes sufficient protection against the risk of refoulement – being forcibly removed from Rwanda to somewhere unsafe.
They also found that an appeal could consider whether the Rwanda plans constitute a penalty under the refugee convention and whether the policy is systematically unfair.
They rejected other grounds, including the claim that they had erred by incorrectly interpreting a test about whether asylum seekers faced a real risk of refoulement.
The charity Asylum Aid brought a separate but linked case challenging the lawfulness of the Rwanda policy. It was granted permission to appeal on one part of its case and was given until Friday to reformulate another part of its appeal request which the judges will then consider.
Paul O’Connor, the head of bargaining at the PCS union, said that while he was disappointed that the judges did not accept the union had the right to bring the legal challenge, it would continue to oppose the policy and to campaign more broadly against Home Office hostile environment policies.
Clare Moseley, the founder of Care4Calais, said she was disappointed the charity had not been given permission to appeal on behalf of the asylum seekers the charity supports and described the Rwanda policy as “brutal, cruel and unnecessary”.
“Refugees will not be safe in Rwanda and this policy will not stop smugglers,” she said. “Giving refugees safe passage is a kinder and more effective way forward.”
James Wilson, the deputy director of Detention Action, said: “We are pleased that permission to appeal has been granted to the individual asylum seekers. We call on the government to rethink the Rwanda policy.”
In April last year, the government announced an agreement with Rwanda for it to receive migrants deemed by the UK to have arrived “illegally”. The first deportation flight – due to take off on 14 June – was grounded after a series of objections against the policy and individual removals.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our ground-breaking migration partnership will relocate anyone who comes to the UK through dangerous and illegal routes to Rwanda, where they will be supported to build a new life. This will disrupt the criminal people-smuggling gangs who sell lies and put lives at risk.
“The court previously upheld that this policy is lawful and that it complies with the refugee convention, and we stand ready to defend this policy at any appeal hearings.”