Several asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union filed lawsuits to stop the conservative government from acting on a deportation agreement with Rwanda.
The United Kingdom’s Interior Minister Suella Braverman will visit Rwanda this weekend to discuss an agreement in which the UK will relocate undocumented refugees and migrants as she doubles down on a plan that has been mired in legal challenges and controversy.
Last year, the UK agreed to send tens of thousands of people more than 4,000 miles (6,400km) away to Rwanda as part of a 120 million pound ($146m) deal, though no flights have taken off as opponents challenge the policy in the courts.
The deal with Rwanda is a major part of Britain’s plans to detain and deport asylum seekers arriving in small boats across the English Channel.
Braverman will meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame during the trip, and said that the move to send migrants and refugees to Rwanda could be put into action shortly.
“I am visiting Rwanda this weekend to reinforce the government’s commitment to the partnership as part of our plan to stop the boats and discuss plans to operationalise our agreement shortly,” she said in a statement.
The partnership was announced in April last year, but the first deportation flight was blocked by an injunction from the European Court of Human Rights.
In December, London’s High Court ruled it lawful. Judges also said that the government failed to consider the individual circumstances of the people it tried to deport, signalling further legal battles ahead.
Opponents are seeking to appeal that verdict in April and it could yet go to Britain’s Supreme Court later in the year.
Several asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union filed lawsuits to stop the Conservative Party government from acting on a deportation agreement with Rwanda.
The asylum seekers would then have to present their asylum claims in Rwanda. Those not granted asylum in Rwanda would, under the plan, be able to apply to stay on other grounds or to try to get resettled in another country.
Opposition parties and charities have described the government’s plans on immigration as unethical and unworkable, saying the plan – known as the Illegal Migration Bill – criminalises the efforts of thousands of genuine refugees.
Rights groups have also said that Rwanda is not a safe destination since the 1994 genocide there. Human Rights Watch issued a public letter warning that “serious human rights abuses continue to occur in Rwanda, including repression of free speech, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture”.
Braverman has robustly defended her approach and described her opponents as “naive do-gooders”. The government insists the policy is needed to stop the all-too-often deadly crossings of the channel from France, saying the deal will undermine the business model of people-smuggling networks.
After a record 45,000 people arrived in Britain last year on small boats, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that finding a solution is one of his top priorities.