Plans to send illegal entrant asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda where their asylum applications can be considered were yesterday ruled as lawful by the High Court – However; the eight claimants involved in this High Court case have been referred back to the Home Secretary because their applications were not properly dealt with.
Lord Justice Lewis read out a summary of the decision to a packed courtroom in the Royal Courts of Justice in what has fast become a hotly contended issue with strong feelings on all sides of the policy.
This judgment follows challenges by eight asylum claimants – made up of both individuals and organisations – to the former Home Secretary’s decisions concerning sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. It was Priti Patel’s key policy and one which ultimately ended her leadership of the Home Office and her career as a front bench politician.
Some of the claimant’s in these proceedings ‘travelled in small boats from France to England and claimed asylum on their arrival’ in the UK, the court was told. Upon arrival in the UK, the Home Office tried to remove these asylum seekers to the new processing centre set up in Rwanda. The claimants all argued that arrangements made by the home secretary to send asylum seekers to Rwanda are unlawful and they claimed also that their personal circumstances were not considered properly.
Lord Justice Lewis said: ‘The court has concluded that it is lawful for the government to make arrangements for relocating asylum seekers to Rwanda and for their asylum claims to be determined in Rwanda rather than in the United Kingdom.
On the evidence before this court, the government has made arrangements with the government of Rwanda which are intended to ensure that the asylum claims of people relocated to Rwanda are properly determined in Rwanda.
In those circumstances, the relocation of asylum seekers to Rwanda is consistent with the refugee convention and with the statutory and other legal obligations on the government including the obligations imposed by the Human Rights Act 1998.
However, the home secretary must consider properly the circumstances of each individual claimant. The home secretary must decide if there is anything about each person’s particular circumstances which means that his asylum claim should be determined in the United Kingdom or whether there are other reasons he should not be relocated to Rwanda.
‘The home secretary has not properly considered the circumstances of the eight individual claimants whose cases we have considered. For this reason, the decision in those cases will be set aside and their cases will be referred back to the home secretary for her to consider afresh.’
Lord Justice Lewis also said that, though the government’s proposal to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda had been the subject of extensive public debate, the role of the court
‘is only to ensure that the law is properly understood and observed, and that the rights guaranteed by parliament are respected’.
The judgement went on to criticise the unacceptable length of two of the skeleton arguments: two of which comprised 262 pages and another reaching 63 pages. It said:
‘Each [skeleton] comfortably exceeds the maximum length permitted by Practice Direction 54A [of] 25 pages. The length of these documents has not served to clarify the way in which the various complaints are put. The documents meander and repeat themselves.
The judge adjourned any other proceedings, including cost and appeal applications, until January 2023. Given the importance of this new policy to immigration lawyers and the reliance that the Government has placed on pushing through this policy, it is almost inevitable that this decision will be appealed. The story is therefore far from over yet, but this decision has been a blow to civil rights activists and humanitarian lawyers.