Rwanda migrant flight to go ahead as judges reject last-ditch legal bids to block it
ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports from Rwanda and speaks to people at a transit centre ahead of the first flight of asylum seekers from the UK being sent to the African country
The Court of Appeal has rejected last-ditch legal bids to block a flight due to send asylum seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday, in a significant win for the government.
Refugee charities Detention Action and Care4Calais, and the PCS union - which represents Border Force staff - were granted leave on Friday to appeal against the rejection of their injunction to halt the flight.
But on Monday, the Court of Appeal said it "cannot interfere" with Friday's decision, meaning eight people - down from 37 - are expected to be on the first flight to the east African country on Tuesday.
The court agreed with the suggestion by High Court judge Mr Justice Swift that individuals should be able to appeal their removal, ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana writes.
But they do not accept his judgements were wrong or irrational, so the flight is authorised to go ahead.
Lord Justice Singh, sitting with Lady Justice Simler and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, said Mr Justice Swift had “conducted the balancing exercise properly” and did not "err in principle nor in the approach he took". He added: “He weighed all the factors and reached a conclusion which he was reasonably entitled to reach on the material before him. This court cannot therefore interfere with that conclusion.”
The judges refused permission for an appeal to the Supreme Court against their decision - though a full hearing on whether the policy is lawful will take place next month.
Asylum Aid - which provides legal advice to asylum seekers - mounted a separate legal challenge against the government plan on Monday, which was also rejected.
It had asked Mr Justice Swift to temporarily block ministers from enforcing the removal of “any asylum seeker” to Rwanda, arguing that the procedure was unfair.
But the judge concluded that the merits of some arguments put forward by the charity were “thin”, saying that “on a general level there is little evidence that there is any systematic issue arising by reason of lack of legal advice”. Mr Justice Swift said evidence suggested that “proper arrangements” were in place for people to get legal advice.
While Friday's injunction bid sought to argue that Rwanda is not a safe place for asylum seekers to be sent to, Monday's bid for an injunction was focused on the process individuals are put through, saying elements of it including the speed at which they are being processed are unfair.
The High Court had heard that the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, has multiple concerns about the system in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum, a lack of legal representation and other “deep-rooted structural problems”.
Mr Justice Swift is aware of three further pending, individual, legal challenges. Lawyers representing Asylum Aid indicated during the hearing that an appeal would be considered.
Rory Dunlop QC, for the Home Office, stressed to the court the importance of the flight. “This is a policy which is intended to deter dangerous and unnecessary journeys, journeys from safe third countries by people who do not need to make that journey to be safe, they can claim in France or wherever it is," he said on Monday. “This is a policy that if it works, could save lives as well as disrupting the model of traffickers. “Even if we are just talking about cancelling a flight tomorrow, there is prejudice to the public interest, to the enactment of decisions that may have that deterrent effect.”
Despite Monday's court decisions, the take off of tomorrow's flight is not guaranteed.
A Home Office source told Anushka Asthana: "Lawyers are going to use every trick in the book to try to thwart the last people who are still on the flight.”
What sort of conditions are awaiting the asylum seekers being sent to Rwanda? Paul Brand reports live from Kigali
ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand understands that the first flight will arrive in Kigali, the capital and largest city in Rwanda, on Wednesday.
He has travelled to Rwanda to help document the kinds of conditions the migrants can expect to be greeted by.
"We found the conditions at the camp to be fairly basic, but the refugees we were permitted to speak to were positive about their treatment," Paul Brand, who went to a camp, which already houses refugees, an hour from Kigali, tweeted.
"Though these are migrants relocated from Libya to Rwanda under a different scheme. All felt sending migrants from UK to Rwanda was cruel."
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More than 10,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year, arriving in Dover, Kent.
As of Friday, up to 130 people had been notified they could be removed to Rwanda, according to reports, but these numbers are dwindling amid a late flurry of individual legal challenges.
Charities have claimed the Home Office incorrectly assessed a number of child migrants as adults, as campaign groups expressed concern about what they say is Rwanda's questionable human rights record.
The scheme - described as cruel by charities - will see people given accommodation and support in Rwanda while their asylum application is being considered by the government there.
If the asylum seeker's claims are successful, they can stay there with up to five years' access to state support. But if the applications fail, they face the prospect of deportation.