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Rwanda judgments today
Appeals seem inevitable, whatever the outcome
The High Court will rule this morning on the lawfulness of government plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
In April, the then home secretary Priti Patel signed an agreement with the government of Rwanda under which some migrants arriving in Britain would be flown to the African country and have their asylum claims processed there. Those granted asylum by Rwanda would not be eligible to return to the UK.
Ministers hoped the scheme would discourage migrants from coming to the UK in the first place. But nobody has yet been sent to Rwanda and today’s Guardian reports that the scheme has cost £140 million so far.
Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift spent a week in September and two days in mid-October hearing separate challenges from individual claimants as well as from migrants’ charities and the PCS union, which represents Border Force officials. It has taken the judges longer than expected to consider the legal arguments and finalise their judgments.
In most cases of this kind, it’s usual for written judgments to be sent to the parties’ lawyers in advance under a strict embargo. The lawyers will alert the court to any typos or factual errors and the losing side will often prepare arguments in support of an appeal. The judgment is then formally released at a specified time without the need for anyone to appear in court.
However, inadvertent leaks are not unknown, especially in cases involving a large number of parties. The Rwanda judgments are listed for a formal hand-down in open court, suggesting that nobody — neither the claimants nor the government — has been shown the rulings in advance. Appeals seem inevitable, whatever the outcome.
Update 1100: Here is the court’s summary of the judgment it delivered this morning:
This judgment concerns claims for judicial review brought by several individuals and organisations who challenge the decisions of the Home Secretary that asylum claims made in the United Kingdom should not be decided here but, instead, the persons who made the claim should be relocated to Rwanda and their asylum claims determined in that country in accordance with arrangements made between the governments of the United Kingdom and Rwanda. The individuals who are claimants in these proceedings travelled in small boats fromFrance to England and claimed asylum on their arrival in the United Kingdom. They contend that the arrangements made by the Home Secretary to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda are unlawful. They also contend that the Home Secretary did not consider their circumstances properly.
The government’s proposal to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda has been the subject of considerable public debate. The role of the court, however is only to ensure that the law is properly understood and observed, and that the rights guaranteed by Parliament are respected.
The court has concluded that it is lawful for the government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom. On the evidence before this court, the government has made arrangements with the government of Rwanda which are intended to ensure that the asylum claims of people relocated to Rwanda are properly determined in Rwanda. In those circumstances, the relocation of asylum seekers toRwanda is consistent with the Refugee Convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the government including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998.
However, the Home Secretary must consider properly the circumstances of each individual claimant. The Home Secretary must decide if there is anything about each person’s particular circumstances which means that his asylum claim should be determined in the United Kingdom or whether there are other reasons why he should not be relocated to Rwanda. The Home Secretary has not properly considered the circumstances of the eight individual claimants whose cases we have considered. For that reason, the decisions in those cases will be set aside and their cases will be referred back to the Home Secretary for her to consider afresh.
The full judgment can be read here.
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