Court: UK plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal

LONDON — Britain’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the plan to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda was legal but the government must consider the circumstances of each case before deporting. anyone, a ruling sets out this controversial policy. legal battle.

Eight asylum seekers, aid groups and a coalition of border officials have filed a lawsuit to stop the Conservative government from acting on a deportation agreement with Rwanda aimed at stopping migrants trying to reach the UK on risky journeys through the English Channel.

The UK plans to send some migrants to the UK either as stowaways or on small boats to the East African country, where their asylum claims will be processed. Asylum grantees will stay in Rwanda instead of going back to the UK

Clive Lewis, one of the two judges, issued a statement: “The court has concluded that it was legal for the government to arrange the relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda and that their asylum claim was decided in Rwanda instead of in the UK”. decision.

The judges said the policy did not violate Britain’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention or other international agreements. But they added that the government “had to decide if anything about the particular circumstances of each person” meant it shouldn’t send them to Rwanda and failed to do so for the eight plaintiffs in the case. .

The British and Rwandan governments welcomed the ruling. UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman – who has called the passage of the English Channel “an invasion of our south coast” – said the government would continue to implement its plan and “defend against any any further legal challenge”.

“Our groundbreaking migration partnership with Rwanda will assist displaced individuals to build new lives there, while disrupting the business model of gangs,” said Braverman. smuggling people puts their lives at risk through dangerous and illegal sea crossings in small boats.”

Rwandan government spokesman Yolande Makolo said the court’s ruling was “a positive step in our efforts to contribute innovative, long-term solutions to the global migration crisis.”

But Rwandan opposition lawmaker Frank Habineza said it was wrong to send migrants to Rwanda, a densely populated country with limited resources.

“This is not sustainable,” Habineza told The Associated Press.

Refugee groups said they would consult their attorneys about challenging the ruling. The judges set another hearing on the case for January 16.

Enver Solomon, head of the Refugee Charity Council, said the Rwanda plan was “a cruel policy that will cause great human suffering.”

Paul O’Connor of the Trade and Public Service Alliance, which represents workers at the border, called the government’s policy “morally reprehensible.”

More than 44,000 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats to Britain this year and several have died in the attempt, including four last week when a boat capsized in freezing weather. .

The UK government argues its deportation policy will prevent criminal gangs from transporting migrants on dangerous journeys through one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

Human rights groups say it is immoral and inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles (6,400 km) away to a country they don’t want to live in. .

The UK government has argued that although Rwanda was the site of a genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in 1994, the country has built a reputation for stability and economic progress. Critics say stability comes at the expense of political repression.

Britain has paid Rwanda more than 120 million pounds ($146 million) under the agreement signed in April, but has yet to send anyone to the country. The UK was forced to cancel its first deportation flight at the last minute in June after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the scheme had “a real risk of causing irreversible harm”.

The UK takes in fewer asylum seekers than many European countries, including Germany, France and Italy, but thousands of people migrate from around the world to northern France each year in the hope of crossing the strait. Manche and this number has grown rapidly over the past few years. five.

A spike in arrivals and the UK’s bureaucracy backlog, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, have left many Canal migrants languishing in overcrowded processing centres. , where there have been outbreaks of diphtheria and other diseases.

The government wants to deport all migrants arriving via illegal routes and aims to strike Rwanda-style deals with other countries. Critics point out that there are few avenues allowed to seek asylum in the UK, other than those established for people from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.

Christina Marriott, policy director for the British Red Cross, said “sending people abroad” would “do little to stop people risking their lives to get to safety.”

“Instead, the government should act to provide safe routes, ensure the right and timely decisions are made when everyone is in the system and everyone is treated with dignity,” she said. and respectful throughout the process.”


Ignatius Ssuuna of Kigali, Rwanda contributed to this story


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