The UK’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda is lawful, the High Court ruled on Monday.
The policy, which involves Britain forcibly sending tens of thousands of migrants to Rwanda in an alleged effort to tackle the record number of refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the UK on small boats, has been mired by controversy.
“People who have suffered the horrors of war, torture and human rights abuses should not be faced with the immense trauma of deportation to a future where we cannot guarantee their safety. We believe that sending refugees to Rwanda will breach our country’s obligations under International Treaties and we continue to believe this policy is unlawful,” Care4Calais said after the court ruling.
The ruling came as a relief for newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who has made a high-stakes political promise to tackle the ‘migration problem’ in Britain.
However, the plan has attracted criticism from opposition parties and human rights organisations in the UK, as well as across the international community, including the UN. “UNHCR remains firmly opposed to arrangements that seek to transfer refugees and asylum seekers to third countries in the absence of sufficient safeguards and standards. Such arrangements simply shift asylum responsibilities, evade international obligations, and are contrary to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention,” the UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, announced back in April.
A report published by Medical Justice condemns the UK government’s deportation plan, claiming that Rwanda deportees include victims of torture and human trafficking. It adds that many asylum seekers have had a lack of access to legal representation and advice and no access to translated documents from the Home Office relating to their imminent removal and deportation to Rwanda.
For many the deal represents a crisis of responsibility, rather than a “migration crisis”. It ignores the UK’s international commitments and sets a dangerous precedent for other countries looking to leverage migration for political ends. Denmark is one of the countries considering a similar deal with Rwanda.
However, for the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, the deal adds unnecessary pressure on the small African state. “Rwanda is a small country. We are also not economically a rich country, like the UK. So we still have many economic challenges, issues of water, distribution, scarcity, issues with electricity, and issues of gas. So we are not anywhere [near] ready to receive people coming from the UK,” Frank Habineza, politician from the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, told MEMO.
In spite of the court’s green lighting of the plan, there is currently no airline willing to carry asylum seekers to Rwanda, with the last company pulling out following pressure from activists. Having already spent £120 million on the deportation scheme, the coming year will see the British government wrangle new ways to make the plan – and its effort to reduce migrant numbers – a success. With only two years before the next general election, a lot is at stake. So far, in spite of the risk of being deported, more asylum seekers have crossed the Channel to the UK in 2022 than in previous years, this has brought into question the effectiveness of the plan and whether or not the “unlawful” policy can really get off the ground.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.