Campaigners to challenge Rwanda asylum plan in court


Campaigners against the UK government’s policy to send migrants to Rwanda say they will take their fight to the Court of Appeal on Monday, after a go ahead was given for the flight to proceed.

The campaigners will make the appeal after the High Court said the first flight to take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda could go ahead.

About 31 people have been told they could be on that flight on Tuesday, with more planes to go later this year.

The Prince of Wales has been caught up in the row after two papers reported he had called the policy “appalling”.

The Daily Mail and the Times both reported that sources had said Prince Charles had made private comments in which he expressed his “disappointment” over the plan.

The prince is travelling to the east African country later this month to represent the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held in the capital, Kigali.

Clarence House, which represents the prince, reiterated that he remains “politically neutral” and said that it would not comment on “supposed anonymous private conversations”.

Under the government policy, some of those entering the UK illegally will be flown to Rwanda to apply for asylum there.

The government hopes the scheme will discourage asylum seekers from crossing the English Channel, with more than 10,000 people making the dangerous sea journey so far this year.

But campaigners who brought the High Court case said they were deeply concerned for the welfare of people set to be “forcibly deported”. They had wanted to block the first flight from leaving, as well as individual people being placed on it.

Speaking at the High Court on Friday, Mr. Justice Swift said there was a “material public interest” in Home Secretary Priti Patel being able to carry out her policies. He said he did not consider there was any evidence asylum seekers would be ill-treated.

But he said there would be a full judicial review, where the High Court will hear a challenge to the policy as a whole, before the end of July.

The first claim had been brought by lawyers on behalf of some asylum seekers, alongside the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) which represents more than 80% of Border Force staff, as well as groups Care4Calais and Detention Action.

Ms. Patel has praised the judgement, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling it “welcome news”.

One asylum seeker – an Iranian ex-police commander who has been held at a detention centre since arriving in the UK in May – has said he fears being killed by Iranian agents in Rwanda.

The former commander, who is not being named in order to protect his identity, was sentenced by an Iranian military court to almost five years in jail in Iran and a demotion for refusing to shoot protesters during anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

When he was out on bail pending his appeal, the former commander escaped to Turkey, where in November 2021 he gave testimony via Skype to a UK-based rights groups’ tribunal investigating alleged Iranian atrocities during the protests

He says he lived in hiding in Turkey before arriving in the UK in May. Although his face was covered when he gave evidence, he says Iran’s security forces managed to identify him and persecuted his family.

“Why Rwanda? I’d rather be sent to Iran,” he said. “At least, I know the consequences. I can’t live with uncertainty and in fear anymore.”

He has been told he will be deported on Tuesday. (Source: BBC)