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Rwanda deportation plan ruled inapplicable by Northern Ireland High Court

May 14, 2024 at 8:22 am

People protest outside Downing Street, London, United Kingdom against the UK government’s recently passed Safety of Rwanda bill and plans for deportation flights on 1 May 2024 [Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images]

The High Court in Northern Ireland ruled yesterday that the UK government’s law on migrant deportations to Rwanda is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as well as the 2020 EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and should not be applied in the UK constituent country.

Justice Richard Humphreys ordered the “disapplication” of the law’s provisions in Northern Ireland following a legal challenge brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and a 16-year-old asylum seeker from Iran who arrived in the UK as an unaccompanied child.

The court found various elements of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 unlawful, including the removal of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking from the UK to a third country without consideration of their applications. “I have found that there is a relevant diminution of right in each of the areas relied upon by the applicants,” said the judge.

Yaaser Vanderman, a barrister at London-based Landmark Chambers who was instructed by the NIHRC in the case, welcomed the ruling, saying that the Court disapplied 10 separate provisions of the Illegal Migration Act 2023. “Overall, a huge case with huge implications,” he wrote on X.

In his first reaction to the ruling, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it “changes nothing” about his government’s operational plans to send illegal migrants to the East African nation of Rwanda from July onwards.

“The commitments in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement should be interpreted as they were always intended, and not expanded to cover issues like illegal migration,” Sunak was quoted by local media as saying.

The UK dispatched its first failed asylum seeker to Rwanda on 30 April under a pioneering voluntary scheme. After becoming law in late April, the long-debated legislation seeking to send asylum seekers to the Central African country paves the way for the deportation of thousands of asylum seekers in a matter of weeks.

In January last year, Sunak said that tackling small boat crossings by irregular migrants across the English Channel was among five priorities of his government, because more than 45,000 migrants arrived in the UK that way in 2022.

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