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Freedom from Torture challenges refugees-to-Rwanda policy

Freedom from Torture has launched a challenge to the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda with a legal letter from Leigh Day human rights lawyers.

Posted on 28 April 2022

The letter sent to the Home Secretary this week asks to see underlying policy, risk assessments and related documents that were used to help formulate the controversial policy on cooperation between the governments of the UK and Rwanda.

It was sent immediately after the Home Office dropped its Channel boats pushbacks policy just days before the High Court was due to hear applications for judicial review brought by Freedom from Torture and other organisations.

The letter says Freedom from Torture has serious concerns about the policy to relocate refugees to Rwanda and asks for copies of the following:

  • Any document which sets out or contains the policy of relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda for their cases to be processed
  • Operational guidance, internal protocols, handling arrangements and/or rules provided to Home Office staff and/or other UK officials in relation to relocation decisions under the Memorandum of Understanding
  • Documents/agreements relating to cooperation with Rwanda in relation to the policy, other than the Memorandum of Understanding
  • Equality impact or risk assessments carried out in relation to the decision to authorise removals under the Memorandum of Understanding

Sonya Sceats, chief executive at Freedom from Torture, said:

“The outpouring of compassion for those fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan has shown that the public wants people seeking safety to be welcomed. But instead, this government is planning to ship refugees halfway around the world to Rwanda. We shouldn't have to resort to legal action for this government to treat refugees with basic human dignity - but here we are again.

“This cruel plan is not only deeply immoral and likely unlawful, it would also deny torture survivors and others access to vital trauma services like those provided by Freedom from Torture. Up and down the country, people are beginning to mobilise against this government’s cynical efforts to stoke fear and xenophobia against refugees. This action is one part of a wider fight by the caring public to tell the government that this is not in our name”

Leigh Day partner Tessa Gregory said:

“Our client, Freedom from Torture, has serious concerns about the lawfulness of the Government’s policy in respect of relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda. Although a Memorandum of Understanding has been published, further details and documents relating to the policy have not been made publicly available. Urgent disclosure is needed for our client to understand the exact terms and scope of the policy and properly formulate its legal challenge.

"It is hoped that after the recent climbdown on pushbacks and the criticism of the Home Secretary’s approach on disclosure in that case, the requested documents will be provided without delay."

Freedom from Torture is crowdfunding to cover the costs of the legal challenge, which it hopes will lead to the Home Office policy being withdrawn.

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Tessa Gregory
Corporate accountability Planning Wildlife

Tessa Gregory

Tessa is an experienced litigator who specialises in international and domestic human rights law cases

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