UK Court of Appeal refuses to block Rwanda flights

The UK government’s plans to deport the first of many asylum seekers to Rwanda by air can go ahead on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Three judges on Monday refused to grant an urgent injunction to block the first flight to Rwanda which is due to take off on Tuesday. The justices dismissed an appeal jointly brought by one asylum seeker along with two NGOs and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU), which represents many Border Force staff.

The court heard that 11 asylum seekers are due to be removed to the central African country as part of the government’s deportation strategy, which has been described by home secretary Priti Patel as “world-leading”. 

However, Care4Calais, one of the NGOs bringing the legal challenge, said that number is down to eight people after some individuals had their deportation orders cancelled after lodging challenges over the weekend.

Under the plans, Rwanda will take some of the asylum seekers arriving in Britain in exchange for development aid in a move which Patel has said will help deter future migrants from crossing to Britain by boat and undermine smuggling gangs.

The contentious government policy has drawn fierce criticism from MPs and also reportedly from Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. A full-blown judicial review of the lawfulness of the scheme is due to be heard by the High Court in July.

On Friday, Mr Justice Jonathan Swift refused to grant an urgent injunction to prevent the first flight, ruling there was a “material public interest” in allowing the policy to go ahead.

The Court of Appeal was urged on Monday to overturn his decision on the grounds that if asylum seekers were removed they “will suffer extremely serious and irremediable prejudice”.

However, Lord Justice Rabinder Singh rejected their appeal and ruled on Monday that the earlier judge “did not err in his approach”, made a “detailed and careful” assessment of the arguments and “reached conclusions he was entitled to reach”. 

Singh added that the “ethical or political controversy” was not a debate for the courts and the merits of the underlying policy was a matter for the government which is accountable to parliament.

The Home Office argued on Monday that there was no reason to overturn Friday’s decision and no urgent injunction should be granted.

Rory Dunlop QC, acting for the Home Office, said the policy “could save lives and disrupt the model of traffickers” and was intended as a “deterrent” against “dangerous and unnecessary journeys”.

Separately on Monday, Swift rejected a separate legal challenge in the High Court for an urgent interim injunction lodged by Asylum Aid, a refugee charity. The charity was seeking a court order covering the removal of any asylum seeker to Rwanda, not just those individuals due on Tuesday’s flight.

Asylum Aid had argued that the government process for sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful and constituted a serious impediment to access to justice. Its application was opposed by the government.

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