Three of the four asylum seekers fighting their deportation from the UK to Rwanda will not be sent to the African country, the Home Office has said.
The news came amid written submissions by Home Office lawyers to the High Court ahead of a bid today to block a deportation flight to the African country under the controversial new removal policy government asylum seekers.
Two campaign groups – Detention Action and Care4Calais – joined Union PCS and four individual asylum seekers take legal action against the Home Office after announcing the the first group of people would be sent to Rwanda on Tuesday.
Lawyers for nearly 100 more migrants have submitted legal challenges asking to stay in the UK.
Downing Street said Boris Johnson still hoped the first flight would take place next week.
A Number 10 spokesperson said: ‘Yes. You are aware of the current legal case today but we have set out our position on why we believe this is the right approach.’
Those who took the action had asked that if a decision went in their favor, the plane would be completely stopped – so the decision did not only apply to the asylum seekers they represent.
‘It’s not safe’
In the first stage of the legal action, brought today, Mr Husain QC told the High Court: ‘The system is not safe. It’s not that it’s not safe after July it’s just not safe.
“You can be arbitrarily denied access. If you enter, there are concerns about the impartiality of decision-making.”
He continued: “The evidence is that if you’re not from a neighboring country then there are high levels of rejection.”
Mr Husain said this included asylum seekers from Syria, who are widely accepted into the UK system.
“The procedure is just plain dangerous,” he said.
Home Office asks court to dismiss legal challenge
In court papers, Home Office lawyers urged the court to dismiss the claim, arguing that it “fails at stage one”, adding: “The claimants have not identified any serious issue to adjudicate, much less the solid arguments they put forward for the granting of reparations at trial.”
The High Court was told that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, had a number of concerns about the asylum process in Rwanda, including discriminatory access to asylum – including for people LGBT – a lack of legal representation and interpreters, and difficulties in appealing.
The High Court is due to hear a new challenge to the policy on Monday, brought by refugee charity Asylum Aid and backed by fellow campaign group Freedom From Torture.
Care4Calais says it knew about nine Afghans; 35 Sudanese; 18 Syrians; 14 Iranians; 11 Egyptians as well as Iraqis, Pakistanis, Albanians, Algerians, Chadians, Eritreans, Turks and Vietnamese who were told they could be put on the first flight.
“Cruel” and “inhuman”
The scheme, which the government said would provide “safe and legal” routes for migrants, has been called “inhumane” and “cruel” by human rights organisations.
Under these plans, people seeking refuge in the country illegally would be placed on chartered flights to Rwanda where they would enter the Rwandan asylum system and not be considered for return to the UK.
Dame Emma Thompson described the scheme to send migrants to Rwanda as “crazy and unresponsive to eye water”.
His comments on the Rwandan draft echo those of a number of activists and politicians, including some from the Conservative party.
It comes as latest figures show more than 10,000 migrants have crossed the Channel into the UK so far this year.
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James Wilson, Deputy Director of Detention Action, said: “In her desire to punish people seeking asylum by forcing them to fly to Rwanda, Priti Patel has overstepped her authority.
“By rushing into what we say is an illegal policy, it turns a blind eye to the many obvious dangers and human rights abuses it would inflict on asylum seekers.
“It is vital that new government policies respect and uphold the laws that we have all, as a society, agreed to follow. This is why we are asking for an injunction to stop this plane bound for Rwanda from leaving the runway. “
The Ministry of the Interior defends a “world-leading partnership”
A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry previously said: “Our leading partnership with Rwanda is a key part of our strategy to overhaul the broken asylum system.
“We have been clear from the start that we expect legal challenges, but we are committed to implementing this new partnership.
“We have now issued formal instructions to the first group of people to be relocated to Rwanda later this month. This marks a crucial step towards operationalizing the policy, which is fully in line with international and national law.”