Leigh Day and Asylum Aid continue Rwanda scheme legal challenge despite unsuccessful injunctionÂ
The first Rwanda-bound flight was grounded yesterday after the ECHR intervened
The Rwanda scheme will continue to face legal challenges despite the dismissal on Monday (13 June) of an urgent interim injunction by leading refugee charity, Asylum Aid, to halt removals to Rwanda. Asylum Aid are being advised by Leigh Day.
The charity has confirmed that despite the court’s decision it will continue with its judicial review challenge to the scheme.
A separate application by Detention Action, Commercial Services Union (PCS), Care4Calais for an urgent injunction to stop the flight was also refused in the Court of Appeal on Monday following initial rejection at the High Court on Friday 10 June 2022.
However, the first removal flight to Rwanda scheduled for 10:30pm yesterday (Tuesday 14 June) was grounded after the European Court of Human Rights granted an urgent injunction to one of the seven asylum seekers destined for the flight, not long after the UK Supreme Court had rejected his application. Subsequently, the remaining six migrants facing deportation also secured similar injunctions.
This could mean that flights are halted until the judicial review is heard. 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 will seek to support and monitor those applications.
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 fourteen 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 its legal case, Asylum Aid argues 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.
Tessa Gregory, partner at Leigh Day said: “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.”
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.”