The first removal flight to Rwanda is scheduled for this evening at 10:30pm (Tuesday 14 June 2022). Earlier today, a separate application by Detention Action, Commercial Services Union (PCS), Care4Calais for an urgent injunction to stop tomorrow’s flight was also refused in the Court of Appeal following initial rejection at the High Court on Friday 10 June 2022.
This means the removal flights to Rwanda, including tomorrow’s flight, can go ahead until Asylum Aid
, Detention Action and others’ judicial review legal challenges are fully considered in court. It is hoped these will be listed in the next two months. It will be down to individuals to seek injunctions preventing their removal and Asylum Aid are seeking to support and monitor those applications.
Asylum Aid, a charity provider of legal representation to people seeking protection from persecution in the UK, applied for judicial review of the procedures and arrangements in place to send refugees to Rwanda. The charity filed the legal challenge last week with law firm Leigh Day, and this will now proceed to permission stage.
Asylum Aid argues that the government’s rapid process for sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful as it is inconsistent with the statutory powers conferred on the Home Secretary by Parliament, procedurally unfair and constitutes a serious impediment to access to justice.
Asylum Aid’s concerns include that the plans are:
- based on a blanket assessment of Rwanda as a ‘safe’ country, which goes against the government’s commitment to case-by-case decision-making;
- involve such tight timeframes – only seven or 14 days for each asylum seeker to obtain legal advice and to present their case – that the process is inherently flawed and unfair;
- give rise to a real risk that individuals may be removed without having had effective access to legal advice and courts.
In their legal case Asylum Aid argue that the Home Office is mimicking the “safe third country” (STC) asylum returns agreement, known as “Dublin III”, that applied when the UK was a member of the EU, and applying it to the Rwanda arrangement without the necessary legal safeguards. Rwanda’s record on human rights, refugee status determination and commitment to the rule of law has attracted consistent international criticism and is not presumed by statute to be generally safe.
As part of its claim Asylum Aid has compiled compelling evidence from legal and other service providers, who each have first-hand experience working with individuals who are subject to the new procedure. The evidence demonstrates that individuals struggle to access legal advice in the accelerated timescale, and that even when legal advice is available the time limits are too short for their lawyers to take instructions, gather evidence and make representations on the many complex factual and legal issues which the Home Office must decide. The evidence also shows the extreme difficulty of mounting effective challenges in court to the many decisions served alongside removal directions, in circumstances where there has already been inadequate time to prepare representations prior to the decisions being taken.
Kerry Smith, CEO of Asylum Aid, said:
“We are disappointed that the court did not put a stop to flights to Rwanda until the lawfulness of the scheme can be reviewed. However, this setback won’t stop us fighting to end this cruel scheme. We stand firm in our belief that this government’s attempt to rapidly remove vulnerable people seeking asylum because it doesn’t approve of the way they reached our shores is unlawful and we will proceed with our substantive judicial review challenge in the High Court.
“Unfortunately, the government’s reliance on the voluntary and legal sector’s crisis response in providing representation to force it to consider its position on individual cases before it removes them is no guarantee that people will not be removed without access to legal advice in the future. While all of us in the sector are committed to preventing this from happening, our capacity is stretched. This is why we will proceed with our substantive judicial review challenge and hope for it to be heard as soon as possible in order that unlawful and unfair scheme is brought to an end.
“This disgraceful push to hastily remove people seeking protection to Rwanda is another attempt to pass the buck on the UK’s responsibilities. We know that the people who will be sent to Rwanda come from countries in conflict or that have poor human rights records such as Iran, Syria, and Sudan.
“Rwanda is not a safe country for people fleeing persecution, in particular for survivors of trafficking, torture and LGBTQ+ people. Sending people there will put them at risk of further harm. Imagine being condemned to permanent expulsion to an unknown and potentially dangerous country, just because you took the only route available to you to reach safety.
“The Rwanda scheme involves a process that flies in the face of the government’s stated commitment to a ‘fair’ asylum system. We are seeing vulnerable people locked up on arrival in the UK with no information, no understanding of what is happening to them and only given seven days to access legal advice and make their case for not being removed to Rwanda. You would get longer than that to challenge a parking ticket. Our justice system is based on the rule of law and we should be making sure that all people fleeing countries where they are denied those things are offered a genuinely fair process to make their case.”
“Our client is bitterly disappointed by the Court's decision to refuse its application for an injunction to halt the flight. Asylum Aid will now continue with their substantive challenge as they remain seriously concerned that the procedures adopted give rise to a real risk that individuals will be forcibly removed without effective access to legal advice and the courts.”
Notes for Editors
- Asylum Aid is a leading provider of high-quality legal representation to people with complex cases who are seeking asylum in the UK. For over 30 years, they have worked with survivors of trafficking and torture, stateless people, unaccompanied children and other vulnerable people seeking asylum to help them gain legal protection in the UK. Since 2020, Asylum Aid is part of the Helen Bamber Foundation Group.
- Asylum Aid is represented by solicitors Tessa Gregory, Stephanie Hill and Carolin Ott of Leigh Day and counsel Charlotte Kilroy QC of Blackstone Chambers, Michelle Knorr and Antonia Benfield of Doughty Street Chambers and Sarah Dobbie of 5 Essex Court.
- The government plans to remove ‘inadmissible’ people seeking asylum under a Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda. Alongside that partnership, the government is seeking to use powers under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004 and under the Immigration Rules to declare certain asylum claims as ‘inadmissible’ on the basis that the individual could have claimed asylum in another country through which their passed en route to the UK and that country is ‘safe’ for them. If the claim is deemed inadmissible, the government then decides if it can remove the individual to Rwanda for their asylum claim to be processed there, and if successful, they will receive refugee status in Rwanda and not the UK. Following a screening interview, an individual is given a ‘Notice of Intent’ that they might be sent to Rwanda and then, if detained, they only have seven calendar days to provide information as to why they should not be sent there. After a decision to remove is made, they only have a further five working days before the removal date.
- For more information, contact Alexandra.firstname.lastname@example.org at Asylum Aid or Caroline Ivison at Leigh Day on email@example.com. For interviews with Asylum Aid CEO Kerry Smith, contact Alexandra.firstname.lastname@example.org