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UK-Rwanda Plan for Asylum Seekers: First Flight Cancelled After Legal Challenge

What is the plan and what does it aim to do? How has the government justified it, and what are the opposers saying?

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World
5 min read
UK-Rwanda Plan for Asylum Seekers: First Flight Cancelled After Legal Challenge
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The first flight scheduled to deport asylum seekers from the United Kingdom to Rwanda as part of the UK-Rwanda plan was cancelled on Tuesday, 14 June.

The intervention came from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which stated that "asylum-seekers transferred from the United Kingdom to Rwanda will not have access to fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status." Read more about it here.

The cancellation occurs just one day after a court in London crushed frantic attempts on Monday by human rights groups and campaigners to stop the British government from executing the plan.

A high court judge on Friday declined to grant a temporary injunction to prevent the flight, and on Monday, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision, Reuters reported.

Judge Rabinder Singh, a British Court of Appeal judge, said that the court could not interfere with the initial judgement regarding the flight that was "clear and detailed." He also refused permission for another appeal on the same.

Additionally, there was second legal challenge in the high court. But that was also rejected, this time by Judge Jonathan Swift, arguing that everyone on the flight had been provided a lawyer to challenge the UK government's decision to fly them out.

A full hearing regarding the legality of the UK-Rwanda plan is due in July. But what exactly is this plan? How is the British government justifying it? What is the UN saying, along with human rights campaigners?

UK-Rwanda Plan for Asylum Seekers: First Flight Cancelled After Legal Challenge

  1. 1. What Does the Plan Say?

    Under the UK-Rwanda deal, people who arrive in the UK "illegally" will be taken straight to Rwanda, where they will be assessed for resettlement.

    In return, the UK has paid the Rwandan government £120 million to house the migrants and integrate them into Rwandan society.

    The initial segment of the scheme is supposed to last for five years.

    The UK government says that the plan is mostly applicable to single, young migrants who came to the UK via "illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods," like small boats.

    Additionally, according to the plan, Rwanda would be responsible for the migrants' access to employment and services.

    The prime minister has said that "anyone entering the UK illegally" since 1 January could be flown to the East African country, with no limit on how many people would be included in the plan.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Is the UK Government's Justification?

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has thrown his full support behind the plan.

    "We must first ensure... that those who tried to jump the queue or abuse our system will find no automatic path to settlement in our country but rather be swiftly and humanely removed to a safe third country or their country of origin," the prime minister had said in April earlier this year, when the plan was introduced, reported by Reuters.

    When asked about the plan around the same time, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel had said that the migrants "will be given the support including up to five years of training, integration, accommodation, health care, so that they can resettle and thrive," reported the BBC.

    Additionally, in a jointly written op-ed dated 18 April 2022 for The Times with the Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta, Patel had argued that her plan would tackle the "deadly trade" of people-smuggling and that no "humanitarian nation" could allow the suffering of migrants to continue with respect to illegal trafficking.

    Expand
  3. 3. What Are the Opposers Saying?

    "We believe that this is all wrong. This is all wrong, this deal. For so many different reasons," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said on Monday.

    "I mean saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don't think so," he was quoted as saying by news agencies.

    He also argued that the UK is sending a very wrong message to other 'rich' countries which asylum seekers turn to for refuge.

    "What am I going to tell [other countries] if they say you know, a rich country like the UK, is sending them abroad, I'll do the same. I'll close my border, I say, you know, I want to save them from a dangerous journey and they can go to another country. The precedent that this creates is catastrophic for a concept that needs to be shared, like asylum."

    After Judge Rabinder Singh pronounced the court's judgment, a statement was put out by the head of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), a trade union which was one petitioners intending to block the flight.

    Mark Serwotka's statement read that the union was "very disappointed with today's decision, and the position in which it places our members who will have to carry out these forced removals."

    "Today's judgement does not make the removal lawful -- that will be decided next month. In the meantime, our members are being instructed to do something tomorrow that might be unlawful in a few weeks," it added.

    The union represents some UK Home Office workers who would take part in the implementation of the plan, along with some asylum-seekers facing deportation.

    Additionally, it was reported by The Times and The Daily Mail last week that Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, has privately found the UK-Rwanda plan to be "appalling."

    "He said he thinks the government’s whole approach is appalling. It was clear he was not impressed with the government’s direction of travel," a source told those two newspapers.

    Other prominent leaders have spoken out against the plan as well.

    Right after the plan was unveiled by the British government, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had said that there were "serious ethical questions" about the deal, while Leader of the Opposition Kier Starmer had called the scheme "unworkable."

    Expand
  4. 4. Is the Deterrence Strategy Working?

    If the UK-Rwanda plan seeks to deter migrants from using "illegal" means to enter the UK, then is the strategy working? What do the numbers say?

    The plan was unveiled by the British government on 14 April.

    Between 18 April and 5 June, however, 3,599 asylum seekers have arrived in small boats, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

    While this is less than the 4,554 people who arrived during the same time last year as per BBC, the total figure for the whole year is likely to go up when the numbers become available.

    In all of 2021, 28,526 people crossed in small boats, and that number will increase in 2022, according to Border Force union officials.

    (With inputs from Reuters, BBC, The Times, The Daily Mail, and The Guardian.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Does the Plan Say?

Under the UK-Rwanda deal, people who arrive in the UK "illegally" will be taken straight to Rwanda, where they will be assessed for resettlement.

In return, the UK has paid the Rwandan government £120 million to house the migrants and integrate them into Rwandan society.

The initial segment of the scheme is supposed to last for five years.

The UK government says that the plan is mostly applicable to single, young migrants who came to the UK via "illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods," like small boats.

Additionally, according to the plan, Rwanda would be responsible for the migrants' access to employment and services.

The prime minister has said that "anyone entering the UK illegally" since 1 January could be flown to the East African country, with no limit on how many people would be included in the plan.

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What Is the UK Government's Justification?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has thrown his full support behind the plan.

"We must first ensure... that those who tried to jump the queue or abuse our system will find no automatic path to settlement in our country but rather be swiftly and humanely removed to a safe third country or their country of origin," the prime minister had said in April earlier this year, when the plan was introduced, reported by Reuters.

When asked about the plan around the same time, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel had said that the migrants "will be given the support including up to five years of training, integration, accommodation, health care, so that they can resettle and thrive," reported the BBC.

Additionally, in a jointly written op-ed dated 18 April 2022 for The Times with the Rwandan foreign minister Vincent Biruta, Patel had argued that her plan would tackle the "deadly trade" of people-smuggling and that no "humanitarian nation" could allow the suffering of migrants to continue with respect to illegal trafficking.

What Are the Opposers Saying?

"We believe that this is all wrong. This is all wrong, this deal. For so many different reasons," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said on Monday.

"I mean saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don't think so," he was quoted as saying by news agencies.

He also argued that the UK is sending a very wrong message to other 'rich' countries which asylum seekers turn to for refuge.

"What am I going to tell [other countries] if they say you know, a rich country like the UK, is sending them abroad, I'll do the same. I'll close my border, I say, you know, I want to save them from a dangerous journey and they can go to another country. The precedent that this creates is catastrophic for a concept that needs to be shared, like asylum."

After Judge Rabinder Singh pronounced the court's judgment, a statement was put out by the head of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), a trade union which was one petitioners intending to block the flight.

Mark Serwotka's statement read that the union was "very disappointed with today's decision, and the position in which it places our members who will have to carry out these forced removals."

"Today's judgement does not make the removal lawful -- that will be decided next month. In the meantime, our members are being instructed to do something tomorrow that might be unlawful in a few weeks," it added.

The union represents some UK Home Office workers who would take part in the implementation of the plan, along with some asylum-seekers facing deportation.

Additionally, it was reported by The Times and The Daily Mail last week that Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne, has privately found the UK-Rwanda plan to be "appalling."

"He said he thinks the government’s whole approach is appalling. It was clear he was not impressed with the government’s direction of travel," a source told those two newspapers.

Other prominent leaders have spoken out against the plan as well.

Right after the plan was unveiled by the British government, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had said that there were "serious ethical questions" about the deal, while Leader of the Opposition Kier Starmer had called the scheme "unworkable."

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Is the Deterrence Strategy Working?

If the UK-Rwanda plan seeks to deter migrants from using "illegal" means to enter the UK, then is the strategy working? What do the numbers say?

The plan was unveiled by the British government on 14 April.

Between 18 April and 5 June, however, 3,599 asylum seekers have arrived in small boats, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

While this is less than the 4,554 people who arrived during the same time last year as per BBC, the total figure for the whole year is likely to go up when the numbers become available.

In all of 2021, 28,526 people crossed in small boats, and that number will increase in 2022, according to Border Force union officials.

(With inputs from Reuters, BBC, The Times, The Daily Mail, and The Guardian.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Edited By :Tejas Harad
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