Rwanda asylum seeker policy faces High Court challenge as migrants continue to cross Channel

A High Court challenge against the Government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda is set to begin

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The hearing before Lord Justice Lewis and Mr Justice Swift is due to start at 10.30am on Monday.

It comes after around 1,000 migrants crossed the English Channel on Sunday, as small boat crossings passed 27,000 for the year.

In April, Home Secretary Priti Patel signed what she described as a “world-first agreement” with Rwanda in a bid to deter migrants from crossing.

But the first deportation flight – initially due to take off on June 14 – was grounded amid a series of legal challenges.

Protesters outside the High Court on Monday
Protesters outside the High Court on Monday
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the policy as a 'world-first agreement'
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the policy as a 'world-first agreement'

Several asylum seekers, along with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and groups Care4Calais and Detention Action, are bringing challenges over the plan to provide one-way tickets to the east African country.

The Home Office will be defending the claims, with a spokesperson stating that Rwanda is a “fundamentally safe and secure country, with a track record of supporting asylum seekers”.

Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Mr Justice Swift, previously said the hearing in London will start on Monday and last for five days, with a second hearing in the claim brought by the group Asylum Aid taking place in October.

Both decisions are expected to be given in writing at the same time.

During a previous hearing, the court was told Rwanda had initially been excluded from the shortlist of potential countries “on human rights grounds”.

Judges heard that in an internal note from March 2021, Foreign Office officials told then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab that if Rwanda was selected for the deportation policy “we would need to be prepared to constrain UK positions on Rwanda’s human rights record, and to absorb resulting criticism from UK Parliament and NGOs”.

In another memo, Foreign Office officials said they had advised Downing Street against engagement with several countries, including Rwanda, the court was told in written arguments.

The court also heard the UK High Commissioner to Rwanda previously indicated the east African country should not be used as an option for the policy, telling the Government it “has been accused of recruiting refugees to conduct armed operations in neighbouring countries”.

Another official memo in April this year said the “fraud risk is very high” and there is “limited evidence about whether these proposals will be a sufficient deterrent for those seeking to enter the UK illegally”, judges were told.