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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

Leigh Day acts for Asylum Aid as it seeks permission to appeal Rwanda judgment

Leigh Day acts for Asylum Aid as it seeks permission to appeal Rwanda judgment


A hearing will be held today (Monday 16 January) at the Royal Courts of Justice

Asylum Aid has applied for permission to appeal the judgment handed down by the High Court on 19 December 2022 relating to the government’s policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

A hearing to decide permission to appeal and other matters will take place today (Monday 16 January 2023) at the Royal Courts of Justice. If permission to appeal is granted, a full hearing on the appeal will take place before the Court of Appeal at a later date. If permission is refused, Asylum Aid can seek permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal.

In October 2022, legal protection charity Asylum Aid, represented by law firm Leigh Day, had its case for a judicial review of the policy heard. Although it quashed a number of decisions to send individual claimants to Rwanda, the High Court ruled in December that the Home Office’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda to have asylum claims considered was generally lawful, and that the curtailed process adopted by the Home Office for deciding who to send was fair and lawful.

Asylum Aid has now filed written submissions with the court which set out why it believes the court’s judgment was wrong in law and why it should be given permission to appeal.

In its legal challenge, Asylum Aid had argued the procedure for the removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda was inherently unfair because it gave asylum seekers, newly arrived and in detention, just seven days to understand that they were being considered for removal to Rwanda, get access to legal representation, and make their case as to why they should not be sent to Rwanda, a country with which they more than likely had no prior connection.

It was argued this short time frame would not give asylum seekers a proper chance to make their case before the Home Office made a decision, and they then had as little as five working days to get to court before they could be on a plane to Rwanda.

The High Court ruled there was nothing inherently unfair about allowing asylum seekers only seven days to make their submissions, on the basis fairness does not require them to have an opportunity to make representations on the general safety of Rwanda for asylum-seekers.

In its submissions for permission to appeal, Asylum Aid has argued this finding is wrong in law, and also inconsistent with other parts of the court’s judgment, including its findings in relation to cases brought by individuals, who had the home secretary’s decisions to send them to Rwanda quashed.

The argument that asylum seekers are not entitled to make their own representations on safety was only made by the home secretary on the last day of the hearing, after the court pointed out that otherwise Asylum Aid almost certainly would have won, as seven days was too short in most cases given the complexity of the decisions.

The court also found asylum seekers don’t need to have access to lawyers in order to have a fair chance to respond in the short timescale, despite the fact even the Home Office recognised lawyers were needed. Asylum Aid argues this finding is also wrong, given the importance of the issues being determined for asylum seekers, the limited time they have to respond and the fact they will generally know nothing about the rules and policy or even about the country the Home Office wants to send them to.

Alison Pickup, director of Asylum Aid, said: “We’re extremely disappointed by the High Court’s decision. It’s very hard to see how it can be fair for the Home Office to decide to send hundreds – if not thousands – of asylum seekers to Rwanda without any of them having a right to argue that it’s not a safe place. We’re asking for permission to appeal so that we can continue to fight for fair processes and fair outcomes for people who come here seeking protection.”

Leigh Day partner, Tessa Gregory, said: “In its appeal Asylum Aid will argue the court erred in concluding that individuals threatened with removal to Rwanda do not have to be afforded an opportunity to make representations on the Home Secretary’s conclusion that Rwanda is a safe country.

“It was on the basis of that finding the court went on to conclude that affected individuals do not need access to lawyers and that seven days is enough for them to make representations about why they shouldn’t be sent to Rwanda.  Our client considers this judgment must be challenged, and given the weight of case law supporting our client’s position we consider an appeal has clear prospects of success.”