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Asylum Aid files judicial review claim challenging the Home Office’s Rwanda policy

Asylum Aid has filed a claim in the High Court challenging the Home Office’s ‘Safety of Rwanda’ guidance.

Posted on 21 May 2024

The charity argues that the Home Office’s Policy unlawfully instructs decision makers to ignore compelling evidence put forward by individuals showing that they would be at individual risk of being sent from Rwanda to another country where they face a risk of persecution, torture or even death. The Policy, Asylum Aid believes, is unlawful and misinterprets the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024, which was given Royal Assent on 25 April.

Asylum Aid argues that section 4 of the Act allows decision makers to consider the risk of Rwanda sending an individual to another country where there is evidence that they would be at risk of torture, death, or other serious human rights violations, when considering any challenge to their removal based on compelling evidence of individual risk. This is an important safeguard which Parliament included in the Act to prevent serious human rights violations. The Home Office does not agree with Asylum Aid’s reading of the Act and has refused to amend its Policy to reflect this, therefore, Asylum Aid has proceeded with a judicial review.

The government has made it sufficiently clear that it intends to act in haste and potentially remove large numbers of vulnerable individuals, including survivors of trafficking and torture to Rwanda as quickly as they can. It is greatly concerning that the Home Office is making decisions that impact Asylum Aid’s clients and many others in their position without considering whether there is a real risk that an individual can be removed from Rwanda to another country, in violation of their human rights.

The Policy also has an impact on other connected decisions by the Home Office, including on requests for extensions of time to make legal representations and on the detention of individuals pending their removal. Therefore, it is critical that the issued raised by Asylum Aid are resolved urgently.

In this case, Asylum Aid is represented by Tessa Gregory, Carolin Ott and Stephanie Hill at law firm Leigh Day.

Alison Pickup, executive director of Asylum Aid said:

“Our clients include vulnerable individuals, such as survivors of trafficking and torture, people with serious mental health problems, former unaccompanied children, and age disputed children. They are extremely anxious and fearful about the possibility of being removed to Rwanda and it is vitally important that we are able to accurately advise them on how they may be able to challenge their removal. But the government is determined to act in haste, and we are greatly concerned that people are being detained on the basis that their removal to Rwanda is imminent, which should not be the case. The Home Secretary has instructed caseworkers to ignore compelling evidence related to onward removal, even if it shows that an individual could be sent to a place where they face real risks of persecution, torture or even death. We are very worried that unless the guidance is urgently corrected, people could unlawfully be removed to Rwanda, in breach of the UK’s human rights obligations.” 

Leigh Day partner Stephanie Hill said:

“Our client, Asylum Aid, is seriously concerned that the Home Office's Safety of Rwanda guidance is unlawful because it prevents decision makers from considering the risk to individuals of onward removal from Rwanda, contrary to the law recently passed by Parliament. Our client is seeking permission for judicial review and will be asking the Court to declare that the current guidance is unlawful."

Asylum Aid is crowdfunding to fund its legal action.

Counsel instructed by Leigh Day are Charlotte Kilroy KC, Rachel Jones and Flora Robertson of Blackstone Chambers and Michelle Knorr of Doughty Street Chambers.

Stephanie Hill
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Stephanie Hill

Stephanie Hill is a partner in the human rights department at Leigh Day.

Tessa Gregory
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Tessa Gregory

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

Carolin Ott
Human rights Judicial review

Carolin Ott

Carolin Ott is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.