Rwanda asylum seeker deportation plan labelled 'unfair' for torture survivors

Reporting from the Court of Appeal, ITV News reporter Chloe Keedy said she had never seen so many barristers present at a single hearing

The government's plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda has been branded "unfair" by lawyers for torture survivors during a hearing at the Court of Appeal.

In December, two judges at the High Court dismissed a series of legal bids over the Home Office proposals, ruling the plans are lawful. But individual asylum seekers have been allowed to challenge the decision.

The appeal in London – which is expected to last four days – will also hear from lawyers for the UN Refugee agency and the charities Freedom from Torture and Asylum Aid.

In written evidence, Tim Buley KC, representing Freedom from Torture, said the speed of the process means there is no "adequate opportunity" to identify torture survivors.

The Court of Appeal was told that under the plans, asylum seekers are given seven days to make representations, with five working days between the decision to remove them, and the potential removal.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman defended the policy on a trip to Rwanda. Credit: PA

He said: "An individual’s status as a torture survivor can only be taken into account, in line with the policy, if that status is first identified.

"That requires individuals to have an effective opportunity to identify themselves as a survivor of torture, obtain relevant supporting evidence, and make representations on their experience of torture and its relevance to the removal decision."

Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture, who is assisting in the case, told ITV News: "One of the many problems with this scheme is the breakneck speed of it.

"For survivors of torture, who we provide clinical services to at Freedom from Torture, the pressure to disclose such traumatic experiences and to acquire medical evidence to prove their torture within these time frames will just be impossible."

There has been fierce opposition to the government's scheme. Credit: PA

Mr Buley said that the “unfairness” of the process for torture survivors has "serious practical consequences".

Charlotte Kilroy KC, for Asylum Aid, said it was "generally not possible" to prepare documents such as witness statements or medical evidence within seven days.

The Court of Appeal has also received written submissions from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Angus McCullough KC, for the agency, said removing asylum seekers to the East African country will raise "a real risk of breaches of the Refugee Convention".

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Lord Pannick KC, for the Home Office, said in written submissions that the period, which can be extended if requested, is "sufficiently flexible".

Lord Pannick later added the Home Office accepted the importance of evidence and that in some cases it may take longer than seven days to obtain.

"The framework accommodates that," the barrister said.