Rwanda Flights: Fight for Fair Processes and Outcomes for Refugees
Rwanda Flights: Fight for Fair Processes and Outcomes for Refugees
Latest: Sept. 5, 2023
Next Steps in our Rwanda Litigation
In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that Rwanda is not a safe country for people seeking asylum. This decision is a huge victory for refugee rights in the UK as it means no-one will be sent to Rwanda …Read more
Next week the High Court will hear Asylum Aid’s case that the Home Office is unfairly rushing through decisions to send people to Rwanda.
On the 13th and 14th October we are going to court to argue that the Home Office is behaving unlawfully by rushing asylum seekers through a process to send them 4000 miles away to Rwanda, without giving them a fair opportunity to make their case to stay in the UK.
This is the second part of the legal challenge to the Home Office’s despicable policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for their claims to be processed there.
The first part was heard over 5 days at the beginning of September. During that hearing the court heard arguments on behalf of our friends at Care4Calais, Detention Action, the PCSU and 10 individuals who had been told they would be sent to Rwanda. The court considered evidence about Rwanda’s poor human rights record; it heard that senior civil servants in the Home Office as well as the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office had warned the Home Office against the policy; and that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is strongly opposed to the plans because of its concerns about Rwanda’s capacity to deal properly with asylum seekers sent there.
Now Asylum Aid’s lawyers will argue over two days that the Home Office is so determined to send people to Rwanda that it designed a process that is far too quick and limited for the people affected to be able to get access to justice and challenge the decision to send them to Rwanda.
The first “Notices of Intent” warning asylum seekers that they may be sent to Rwanda were served on 11 May 2022. The notices – in English- gave the asylum seekers, newly arrived and held in detention, just 7 days to find a lawyer, gather evidence and set out in writing the reasons why they should not be sent to Rwanda (without knowing much, or in some cases anything about Rwanda and the risks they might face there).
Unsurprisingly, evidence gathered by Asylum Aid shows that this impossibly short deadline could not be met.
Just 3 weeks later, the Home Office started issuing decisions telling the asylum seekers that they would be sent to Rwanda on 14 June. Some were given as little as 5 working days' notice of their removal to Rwanda. We have even learned through the litigation that a deliberate decision was taken to “back load” decisions by serving them as close to the flight as possible, even though officials knew this would result in people struggling to access the court in the days before the flight.
We believe that the speed at which these decisions were being taken, the presumption of the general safety of Rwanda, and the paucity of information given to affected individuals undermine the Home Office’s claim of careful, individualised consideration in every case. As a result, we are worried that there is a real risk that people may be removed without having had the opportunity to make their case properly and without rightful access to effective legal advice and the courts.
Making sure that all people fleeing countries where they are denied their rights are offered a genuinely fair process to make their case for protection has been a cornerstone of our justice system since at least the Second World War. Asylum Aid’s vision is that all those who come to the UK in need of protection from persecution and other forms of human cruelty obtain it, and are treated fairly and with dignity in the process. The Rwanda policy and the process under which the Homes Office wants to send people to Rwanda tramples over their rights and goes against the spirit of the Refugee Convention and everything we stand for.
We need a system that prioritises the safety and wellbeing of people seeking asylum. People must be allowed to go through a fair process, get a fair hearing and a fair outcome.
Our case is supported by evidence from Care4Calais and Duncan Lewis solicitors as well as other lawyers and charities who are working hard to support the people facing being sent to Rwanda under this scheme.
Our legal team at Leigh Day solicitors (Tessa Gregory, Carolin Ott, Stephanie Hill and Blodina Rakovica) and our brilliant counsel (Charlotte Kilroy KC, Michelle Knorr, Harry Adamson and Sarah Dobbie) have worked exceptionally hard to prepare our case and give us the best chance of defeating this abhorrent policy. We need to raise more money to be able to pay them for the brilliant work they are doing.
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Sept. 5, 2023
Next Steps in our Rwanda Litigation
In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that Rwanda is not a safe country for people seeking asylum. This decision is a huge victory for refugee rights in the UK as it means no-one will be sent to Rwanda at this time. The government has already announced plans to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court, with a decision expected later this year.
After the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment, we took some time with our legal team to analyse the details of the judgment, understand its implications on the future of refugee rights in the UK, and decide whether we needed to take our case to the Supreme Court.
Asylum Aid’s case challenged the fairness of the Home Office’s procedure for deciding who to send to Rwanda, which gave people threatened with removal inadequate time and access to effective legal representation to make their case.
Although the Court of Appeal found that the procedure was not unlawful, we were pleased that they rejected the reasons given by the High Court for dismissing our claim, and made very strong findings about procedural fairness. The Court of Appeal’s findings included that 7 days is not enough time for most people to make their case, and that they need effective access to legal advice and the opportunity to argue that Rwanda is generally unsafe to have a fair chance to make their case before being put on a plane to Rwanda.
The outcomes we have secured in the Court of Appeal are a major win for our clients, and for all people seeking asylum in the UK. They mean that any future procedure the Home Office might adopt to remove people seeking asylum to another country will have to be fairer – including under the Illegal Migration Act.
Given these outcomes, we wanted to let you know that we will not be taking our case to the Supreme Court. We will be doing everything we can to support the individuals who will be defending the appeal as the Home Office argues against the ruling that Rwanda is unsafe.
Asylum Aid’s vision is that all those who come to the UK in need of protection obtain it, and are treated fairly and with dignity. Challenging the government’s Rwanda policy is a key part of achieving this vision, and we will continue to strategically engage in litigation when necessary as we work towards this.
We are so grateful for your support throughout our journey on this important case. We could not have secured these gains for refugee rights in the UK without your vital help!
June 30, 2023
The Court of Appeal Agrees: the Rwanda Policy is Unlawful
We’re so pleased to share the amazing news that today the Court of Appeal has ruled that the Rwanda policy is unlawful.
The Court upheld that Rwanda isn’t a safe country for people seeking asylum, and that no-one will be sent to Rwanda. The Court also found that people seeking asylum must have a fair opportunity to make representations on all issues relevant to whether they can lawfully be removed.
This decision is a huge victory for refugee rights in the UK! We’ll now take the time to carefully consider our next steps with our legal team. We are prepared to continue fighting against this inhumane policy and stand up for the rights of all people seeking asylum in the UK.
Thank you so much for all your support to help us uphold the right of refugees to protection.
June 28, 2023
Judgment out tomorrow
We’ve now heard that the Court of Appeal will be handing down their judgment on the Rwanda plan tomorrow, 29 June, at 10am.
Thank you so much for standing with us in our fight for a fair, lawful, and humane asylum system. We couldn’t have got this far without your support.
April 17, 2023
Coming up next week: Our appeal on the Rwanda plan
Next week we’re going to the Court of Appeal for our appeal against the High Court’s judgment on the Rwanda policy.
Now more than ever it’s important that we fight the Rwanda plan, as the government’s new “Illegal Migration” Bill relies on the Home Office’s inhumane model of removing people seeking asylum to Rwanda. This would give them inadequate time and access to legal representation to make their case and get to Court, with no right to argue that Rwanda is unsafe generally.
We urgently need to raise more money towards our appeal to continue with this vital case.
We would not have been able to come this far without the generous support you’ve already shown us. Please consider giving again if you can, and help us by sharing our campaign far and wide.
Thank you for standing with us for the right of refugees to protection.
March 27, 2023
Appeal date is set: 24-27 April
Our appeal against the High Court’s judgment on the Rwanda policy will be heard in the Court of Appeal on 24-27 April. We will be challenging the judgment ruling that the Home Office’s curtailed process for deciding who to send to Rwanda was fair and lawful.
Why we must appeal
In light of the government’s new “Illegal Migration” Bill, it has become even more urgent that we fight back against this judgment. The new Bill will make asylum claims inadmissible from anyone who arrives on a small boat or via other irregular routes – the only option available for many needing protection in the UK – and gives the Home Secretary the power to remove people seeking asylum to a “safe third country” like Rwanda. It also adds Rwanda to the statutory list of safe countries, enshrining the Home Office’s assessment that Rwanda is a safe country into law. Our case about the fast track process will be heard together with the appeals of some of the people who the Home Office tried to send to Rwanda last summer, and who are arguing that it is not a safe place for them.
The government’s plan is unworkable and unfair. It relies on their model of removal to Rwanda, which gives people seeking asylum an impossibly short time span to make their case and get to Court, with no right to make representations on the general safety of Rwanda.
It is vital we fight to uphold the right of individuals to argue that a specific country is not safe for them, with the time and access to legal representation they need to have a proper chance to make their case before they could end up on a plane.
The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, has been given permission to intervene in our case. The Special Rapporteur will comment on whether the government’s fast-tracked process of removing people to Rwanda will enable them to correctly identify and protect Victims of Trafficking.
We need your support
We urgently need to raise more money towards our appeal so we can pay our lawyers to continue with their tireless work on this important case.
Thank you so much for your support so far to help us uphold the right of refugees to protection. Please continue to stand with us and share with others who believe that denying people the protection they need and sending them thousands of miles away is inhumane and unjust.
Jan. 18, 2023
We have permission to appeal! We need your support.
We have been granted permission to appeal against the High Court’s judgment on the Rwanda policy, and we plan to do so by 30 January.
Before we can lodge our appeal, we need to raise more money to help us continue this fight. Our ability to proceed with an appeal depends on raising enough money to cover the adverse fees we might have to pay the Home Office if we lose the case, as well as enough money to pay our legal fees.
Thank you for the amazing support you’ve already shown us. If you can, please consider giving again and sharing this campaign with your networks.
We are determined to continue standing up for people seeking asylum and against this unfair policy. Thank you for joining us in this journey.
Jan. 12, 2023
NEWS: Permission to appeal
We have just applied for permission to appeal against the High Court’s judgment on our judicial review against the Rwanda policy. As you know, we were deeply disappointed by the judgment handed down right before Christmas, which ruled that the curtailed process that the Home Office has adopted for who to send to Rwanda was fair and lawful.
Asylum Aid had argued in our legal challenge that the procedure was inherently unfair because it gave asylum seekers, newly arrived and in detention, just 7 days to understand that they were being considered for removal to Rwanda. In the same time frame, they have to get access to legal representation, and make their case as to why they should not be sent to Rwanda, a country with which they more than likely had no prior connection. This impossibly short time span would not give them a proper chance to make their case, leaving them with as little as 5 working days to get to Court before they could end up on a plane.
What did the judgment say?
The Court ruled that there was nothing inherently unfair about this short-cut timescale. This rests almost entirely on its conclusion that fairness does not require that individuals be given an opportunity to make representations on the general safety of Rwanda for asylum-seekers.
The Court also found that asylum seekers don’t actually need to have access to lawyers in order to have a fair chance to respond in the short-cut timescale, despite the fact that even the Home Office recognised that lawyers were needed.
Why we are appealing
We are determined to fight back against this judgment.
We believe that the Court’s finding that asylum seekers don’t have a right to comment on the general safety of Rwanda is obviously wrong in law, and also inconsistent with other parts of the Court’s judgment, including its findings in relation to cases brought by individuals. What’s more, it is the opposite of the case put by the Home Office until the last day of the hearing, at which point the Judges invited the Home Office to consider changing their case on the law having suggested that otherwise Asylum Aid almost certainly would have won as 7 days was too short.
Given the importance of what is at stake for asylum seekers, we are also very worried by the idea that they don’t need lawyers to respond to the Notice of Intent to send them to Rwanda: they have an incredibly short time to respond, they generally know nothing about the rules and policies involved in this process, or even about the country the Home Office wants to send them to.
We need your help
We urgently need to raise more money to fund the appeal – to pay our own lawyers for their ongoing hard work, as well as court fees and in case we are ordered to pay any of the Home Office’s costs.
Please continue to support our campaign and share with others who believe that rushing people seeking protection through an unfair process and then sending them thousands of miles away is inhumane and unjust.
Thank you so much for your support for this important case. Whatever the outcome we will continue to fight for the rights of refugees to protection and to be treated with humanity and dignity.
Dec. 19, 2022
Judgement is Out
Today we have received the judgement on our judicial review arguing that the Home Office's policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful and unfair.
We are disappointed that the High Court has decided that the policy itself and procedure are lawful, although it held that the individual decisions made in 8 cases before the court had not received proper consideration and must be looked at again.
We will be looking closely at this judgement to see if there are any grounds for appeal.
What is really needed is a re-think of the policy. One that treats asylum applications with the seriousness they deserve and respects the human dignity of those seeking sanctuary here.
Although we are disappointed in this judgement, we will continue to fight for an asylum system that is fair, lawful and humane.
If you can, please consider continuing to support Asylum Aid's work.
Dec. 13, 2022
Judgement date is set: 19 December
We’ve just found out that the Court will be handing down judgement in person on Monday, 19 December at 10.30 am. This will cover both the case that Asylum Aid has brought in our own name regarding the procedural details of this policy, as well as the related but separate case brought by Care4Calais, PCS Union and Detention Action.
Once we receive the judgement, we will confer with our legal team to understand its implications on the rights of people seeking asylum in the UK, as well as consider what our next steps might be, including potentially appealing if the judgement is not in our favour – or defending any appeal by the Home Office if it is!
Thank you for standing with us for a fair and humane asylum policy in the UK. We couldn’t do this without you.
Oct. 24, 2022
On 13 and 14 October we were in court. Here’s what happened.
Our challenge to the Home Office’s Rwanda policy was heard in the High Court on 13 and 14 October. This followed earlier hearings on 5-9 September of the cases brought by Care4Calais, Detention Action, the PCSU and a number of individuals, and a hearing on 12 October of a case focused on the data sharing parts of the Rwanda agreement.
At the hearing, our barristers presented the evidence and legal arguments to support our case that the Home Office has adopted a procedure for sending people to Rwanda which is unlawful and unfair. Under the procedure, asylum seekers, newly arrived following an often traumatic journey, are given just 7 (if in detention) or 14 days to understand what is happening to them, access legal advice, and put forward evidence and arguments as to why they should not be sent to Rwanda. If a decision is then made to send them to Rwanda, they have just 5 working days to get to court to stop their removal.
The Home Office argues that 7 – or 14 - days is enough time in ‘straightforward’ cases to deal with all of these things, and that extensions can be requested if more time is needed in a particular case. Our case is that 7 or 14 days is never enough to understand what’s happening, get access to legal advice, and deal with all the complex issues arising.
And what’s more, the Home Office doesn’t tell asylum seekers that they can ask for more time if they need it – it’s not stated in the ‘Notice of Intent’ or even in their published guidance to their own caseworkers. The evidence and analysis we presented to the court about the cases that went through the procedure earlier in the summer, showed that in some cases the Home Office didn’t even respond to a request for an extension of time. When it did grant an extension it was often for a short period only which is still not enough time for a fair process. There are even cases where, despite granting an extension, the Home Office went ahead and decided to send the person to Rwanda anyway, before the new deadline.
Before the hearing, the Home Office had accepted that asylum seekers had to be told the gist of the decisions that it was considering taking and to have a fair opportunity to make representations against those decisions. It accepted that this included being able to make representations about the reasons why they should not be sent to Rwanda – including both on the Home Office’s general assessment that Rwanda is a safe country, and any reasons why it would not be safe for them individually.
On the second day of our hearing, the Home Office changed its case – it now says that asylum seekers don’t need to be given the opportunity to make representations on the general assessment that Rwanda is a safe country, only on whether there is anything in their individual circumstances which means it is not safe for them.
Because of this late change in the Home Office case, the court allowed our legal team – and the lawyers in the linked cases heard in September - to put in further written arguments which had to be submitted [today]. We argue that this change in the Home Office case is legally flawed– in particular because Rwanda is not on any list of safe countries endorsed by Parliament so the Home Office has to assess safety every time it makes a decision to send someone to Rwanda. But in any case, 7 – or 14 - days is still not enough.
Our legal team have continued to work hard and we still need to raise more money to be able to pay them.
Now we await the court’s judgment on all of the issues raised in our case and the linked claims brought by Care4Calais, Detention Action and others. The court didn’t say exactly when it would give its judgment but we expect it will be handed down before the Christmas break. In the meantime, we continue to hear of asylum seekers, living in hotels in our communities, being sent written notices that they are being considered for removal to Rwanda. They have just 14 days to understand the notice (which we understand is being sent by post, in English, and not explained to them by anyone from the Home Office) -get access to legal advice and respond. We remain very concerned that if the court’s judgment goes against us, there is a real risk of people being put on a plane to Rwanda without a fair procedure being followed and without having a fair chance to properly make their case in court.
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