Opposition parties insist Rwanda deportations are 'immoral' as High Court rules they are lawful

Opposition parties have insisted the Rwanda deportations are “immoral” despite the High Court ruling the policy is lawful.

Several challenges were brought against the proposals announced by then-home secretary Priti Patel in April, which she described as a “world-first agreement” with the east African nation in a bid to deter migrants from crossing the Channel.

The situation prompted an angry row in the Commons, with Home Office minister Robert Jenrick accusing the SNP of criticising the plans while refusing to welcome asylum seekers in Scotland.

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The first deportation flight – due to take off on June 14 – was then grounded amid a series of objections against individual removals and the policy as a whole.

Campaigners lost a High Court challenge against the Rwanda scheme.Campaigners lost a High Court challenge against the Rwanda scheme.
Campaigners lost a High Court challenge against the Rwanda scheme.

However, senior judges on Monday rejected arguments brought by lawyers for asylum seekers and charities, which argued the plans to provide one-way tickets to the east African nation were unlawful.

Despite the verdict, opposition parties insisted the problem was not about whether it was legal, but more that it was an “immoral” thing to do.

SNP home affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss said: “Whether legal or not, this move is deeply immoral and will only serve to endanger those the UK Government has a duty to protect.

“Those fleeing war, famine and oppression deserve and need our full support. Instead the Tories have chosen to make scapegoats of desperate people in a disgusting attempt to cover up their own domestic policy failings.

“Countries like the UK should act as a beacon of hope and serve as a positive example to the rest of the world. Sadly, that is no longer how the UK is viewed, and so it falls upon an independent Scotland to show a just and humanitarian welcome to whoever needs it, whenever they need it.”

The dispute then spilled into the Commons after Ms Thewliss accused the UK Government of not funding asylum seeker provisions “properly”.

Responding for the Government, Mr Jenrick claimed the Scottish Government was “refusing” to take anyone who came to Britain on a small boat.

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Mr Jenrick said: “I don’t recognise anything that the honourable lady has just said. The problem with the current system is that it is too complicated and too bureaucratic. We want to simplify that. We want to speed up those decisions. We want to make sure the teams are more productive.

“The Scottish Government are refusing to take any of the asylum seekers who are arriving in the UK on small boats. That is not right. There is a widening gulf between the actions of the Scottish Government and their rhetoric.”

The Liberal Democrats were also angry over the verdict, claiming not only was the scheme “immoral”, it didn’t even work.

Since being announced, not a single person has been deported to Rwanda, despite the UK Government paying £120 million to establish the scheme.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: "Whether or not it is lawful, the Conservatives’ Rwanda asylum plan is immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers.

"It will do nothing to stop dangerous Channel crossings or combat people smuggling and human trafficking. Instead, it will give criminal gangs more power and profits.

"The Conservatives are betraying the UK’s proud tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing war and persecution, and breaching our commitments under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

"Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money defending this policy through the courts, the Government should be focusing on stopping these dangerous crossings and tackling the smugglers and traffickers by providing safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees."

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Brought in while Boris Johnson was Prime Minister, the scheme was aimed to deter asylum seekers from crossing the Channel. However, some in Government believe it was to deflect from the numerous scandals around Mr Johnson’s administration.

Labour branded the Government’s Rwanda plan “unworkable” and “unethical”, questioning why the number of boats had risen since the scheme was announced.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The Rwanda scheme is a damaging distraction from the urgent action the Government should be taking to go after the criminal gangs and sort out the asylum system.

“Ministers have already written a £140m cheque to Rwanda without the policy even starting, with millions more promised even though Home Office officials say there’s no evidence it’ll provide a deterrent and it risks making trafficking worse.

“The Rwandan government has said it can only process 200 people a year – or 0.5 per cent of Channel crossings this year. It’s no surprise that the home secretary herself has described the scheme as a failure.

“The Conservatives have let criminal gangs take hold in the Channel, while their own asylum decision making has collapsed.”

This was echoed by Katy Chakrabortty, head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam, who said: “Just because something is legal, does not make it humane.

“We need a reversal of this barbaric policy and the creation of more safe and legal routes for those fleeing conflict and persecution to the UK.”

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Lord Justice Lewis, sitting with Mr Justice Swift, had dismissed the challenges against the policy as a whole, but ruled in favour of eight asylum seekers, finding the Government had acted wrongly in their individual cases.

In a summary of the ruling read out in court, 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.”

Lord Justice Lewis said a further hearing would take place in mid-next month to handle the consequences of the judgment, including costs and applications to go to the Court of Appeal.

Speaking in Riga during a visit after the verdict, Rishi Sunak told broadcasters he welcomed the decision.

The Prime Minister said: “We’ve always maintained that our Rwanda policy is lawful, and I’m pleased that was confirmed today and this is just one part of our plan to tackle illegal migration.

“Last week, I set out a very comprehensive approach to stopping the boats from coming to the UK. It’s not going to be easy and we’re not going to be able to do it overnight.

“But I’m confident that with the steps I laid out last week, we really can get to grips with illegal migration, because I think what we all want to see and what I want to deliver is a system whereby if you come to the UK illegally, you will not have the right to stay and we will be able to return you to your own country if it’s safe or a safe alternative like Rwanda.

“That’s the common sense position, I think, of the vast majority of the British public. It’s my position and that’s what I want to deliver as Prime Minister.”



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