Judge Jonathan Swift of the UK High Court Friday ruled against activist groups and UK Border Force personnel, allowing the controversial plan to deport UK asylum seekers to Rwanda to go forward. The first group of asylum seekers is scheduled to be deported on June 14.
The emergency legal action was filed by several organizations including Care4Calais, Detention Action, and notably Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents the UK Border Force. PCS’s General Secretary Mark Serwotka said prior to the Friday ruling:
PCS believes that the government’s Rwanda plan is unlawful. In the past 5 years, we have lodged five judicial review applications against the government where they have breached the law. We are determined to hold them to account over this latest scheme.
Home Secretary Priti Patel celebrated the decision and dismissed any notions that Rwanda may not be a safe location to house asylum seekers, saying:
I welcome the court’s decision in our favour and will now continue to deliver on progressing our world-leading Migration Partnership…Rwanda is a safe country and has previously been recognised for providing a safe haven for refugees – we will continue preparations for the first flight to Rwanda, alongside the range of other measures intended to reduce small boat crossings.
According to the UK Home Office, the controversial plan is intended to “support the NPI [New Plan for Immigration] by disrupting the business model of organised crime gangs promoting trips to the UK by dangerous and unlawful routes.”
This is not the first time that a country has attempted to use Rwanda to deport asylum seekers. In 2018, Israel attempted to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to Rwanda, but was blocked by the Israeli Supreme Court.
There will be a hearing on June 13 to appeal Swift’s ruling.