Rwanda asylum policy: campaigners protest against Home Office’s ‘immoral’ plan as High Court challenge begins
Charities have argued there are more “humane” and “effective” solutions to immigration issues.
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Activists from Care4Calais, the Refugee Council, Detention Action and more yesterday (5 September) took to outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London - as well as to various other locations across the country - to give speeches and call upon the Government to abandon the policy.
In a bid to deter migrants from crossing the Channel, then-Home Secretary Priti Patel announced in April the Government’s plan to deport those deemed to have arrived in the UK “illegally” to Rwanda.
But a legal challenge was brought against the proposed scheme - and it is now being heard at the High Court.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, told NationalWorld: “The plans to treat vulnerable people in search of safety like human cargo and send them to Rwanda is cruel and nasty.
“It is wrong in principle and unworkable in practice.”
Founder of Care4Calais Clare Moseley, who spoke at the protests in London, said: “It is sickening to contemplate this horror happening.
“Given the more effective and humane options available, is this really what we as a compassionate country want to do?”
Ms Moseley also argued that the Government’s failed one-way flight in June, which was grounded after last-minute interventions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), only confirmed that the policy should be abandoned.
She explained that Care4Calais supported refugees who had been issued with Rwanda policy notices, where they saw “harrowing suicide attempts,” “self harm” and “hunger strikes”.
“We supported people who had escaped from bloody conflicts and survived torture only to be detained and told the terrifying news that they would be deported halfway across the world,” the activist recounted.
Mr Solomon also stressed that the plan is “not working” as a “deterrent” - pointing out the record number of Channel crossings since the plan was announced and attributing this to the fact that the policy “does nothing to address the reasons people come here in the first place.”
The UK Government however insists that its “world-leading partnership with Rwanda is a key part of our plans to fix the broken asylum system.”
A Home Office spokesperson told NationalWorld: “The global migration crisis needs innovative solutions.
“[The new plan] will see people arriving dangerously, illegally and unnecessarily into the UK relocated to Rwanda where they will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
“Our thorough assessments found that Rwanda is fundamentally a safe and secure country with a strong track record of supporting asylum seekers.”
But many have pointed out that Rwanda’s troubling human rights record includes enforced disappearances, torture, excessive use of force by the police, violations of the right to free expression, and particular danger for #LGBTQ+ members.
A NationalWorld investigation found that more than 10,000 migrants crossed the English Channel in the first 100 days after the Government announced the policy, at least 25% more than during the same period a year previously.
The challenge at the High Court is due to last for five days, with the last day set to be Friday (9 September).
Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, one of the groups attending court to “test the lawfulness of the policy”, is hopeful about the outcome of the trial.
She said that the British legal system has “a fine tradition of guaranteeing fundamental rights.”
But charities are not just relying on the courts to bring an end to the asylum plan - they’re also calling on action from the newly-appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss, as well as from her new administration.
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said: “The new Prime Minister must now abandon this unlawful and reckless plan as soon as possible.”
Ms Truss has not mentioned the plan since becoming Prime Minister, but expressed her support for the Rwanda policy during the Tory leadership race - and has even spoken of introducing similar schemes with other countries.
He continued: “In their efforts to defend the staggeringly-irresponsible UK-Rwanda deal, Priti Patel and other ministers have made themselves PR agents for a country with a track record of arbitrary detention, torture and the repression of free speech.”
The director also added that the UK should not “cast off” its asylum responsibilities to other countries.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka meanwhile made a direct appeal to the new Home Secretary, who has not yet been appointed.
He commented: “We want the Home Office to abandon its hostile approach to refugees and to work with us to build a humane system that allows our members the time, space and resources to do their jobs properly.”
A second hearing against the Rwanda asylum plan on a claim brought by the group Asylum Aid will take place in a month’s time, and decisions on both sets of claims are expected to be given in October.