Campaigners and asylum seekers have won a Court of Appeal challenge over the government’s planned Rwanda deportation scheme.
Three judges have overturned a High Court ruling that previously said the east African nation could be considered a “safe third country” for migrants to be sent to.
It is the latest court verdict in a long-running legal battle to get the controversial scheme up and running, after it was announced last April as part of plans to crack down on Channel crossings.
Announcing the ruling, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said he does not accept that migrants would be at risk of removal to their home countries from Rwanda – but it is not a safe place for them to housed in while their asylum claims are processed.
The judge concluded: “The result is that the High Court’s decision that Rwanda was a safe third country is reversed, and unless and until the deficiencies in its asylum process are corrected, removal of asylum seekers will be unlawful.”
The Rwandan government said it took “issue” with the ruling, calling the nation “one of the safest countries in the world”.
In response to the ruling the Home Office’s plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda unlawful, Aisha Dodwell, the head of campaigns for the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, CAFOD, said: “The government’s plans to send people seeking safety to Rwanda are not only immoral, but have now proven to be unlawful.
“It is time for the government to look again at its shameful policy and its treatment of migrants and refugees. As Pope Francis has made clear, the world needs to show maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant by building bridges, not walls, as well as providing routes for safe and regular migration.”
Government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said: “While this is ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system, we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe country for asylum seekers and refugees. Rwanda is one of the safest countries in the world and we have been recognised by the UNHCR and other international institutions for our exemplary treatment of refugees.”
She said her government was “still committed” to making the partnership work, adding: “The broken global migration system is failing to protect the vulnerable, and empowering criminal smuggling gangs at an immeasurable human cost.
“When the migrants do arrive, we will welcome them and provide them with the support they’ll need to build new lives in Rwanda.”
Lord Burnett said the court reached its conclusion on the law and took “no view whatsoever” about the political merits of the policy.
“Those are entirely a matter for the government, on which the court has nothing to say,” he added.
Lord Burnett, who heard the appeal with Sir Geoffrey Vos and Lord Justice Underhill, said the court ruled by a majority and he had agreed with a previous High Court ruling – but the two others did not.
In December last year, two judges at the High Court dismissed a series of legal bids against the plans, finding the Rwanda proposals were consistent with the government’s legal obligations.
However, lawyers for some individual asylum seekers and the charity Asylum Aid brought the successful challenge against their decision at the Court of Appeal.
The latest ruling was welcomed by Green MP Caroline Lucas who tweeted: “Excellent news that Court of Appeal has ruled Braverman’s utterly inhumane, grotesquely immoral & totally unworkable #Rwanda scheme to be illegal too – & in clear breach of human rights law. Time for an asylum policy which treats people with respect & dignity.”
However Tory MP Simon Clark said the judgement is “deeply disappointing” and “I would anticipate an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court”.
The government wants to send tens of thousands of migrants more than 4,000 miles away to Rwanda as part of a £120m deal agreed with the government in Kigali last year.
Story from Yahoo and William Kelly, The Catholic Network
CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and works in over 40 countries around the world.
CAFOD, through its work overseas, supports people who have fled their homeland because of conflict, persecution, poverty and climate change. This includes people who have been displaced by the recent conflict in Sudan, with CAFOD supporting displaced Sudanese people in South Sudan.