London’s High Court has granted permission to a group of asylum seekers to appeal against a ruling that Britain’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda is lawful.
Two High Court judges ruled in December that the controversial policy is legal, rejecting a lawsuit from several asylum seekers, aid groups and a border officials’ union.
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The same judges said on Monday that the claimants can challenge that decision on issues including whether the plan is “systemically unfair” and whether asylum seekers would be safe in Rwanda.
Britain’s interior ministry, the Home Office, said it would defend its policy, which is a central part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s plan to tackle the record number of migrants and refugees arriving in small boats.
The government says the plan will deter people smugglers, though it has been denounced by rights groups since it was announced in April.
The first planned deportation flight was blocked in June last year by a last-minute ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which imposed an injunction preventing any deportations until the conclusion of legal action in Britain.
Permission was also granted in relation to whether the Home Office was entitled to rely on assurances given by Rwanda about conditions for asylum seekers who are sent to the country.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Our ground-breaking migration partnership will relocate anyone who comes to the UK through dangerous and illegal routes to Rwanda, where they will be supported to build a new life.
“This will disrupt the criminal people smuggling gangs who sell lies and put lives at risk.
“The court previously upheld that this policy is lawful and that it complies with the Refugee Convention, and we stand ready to defend this policy at any appeal hearings.”
A lawyer representing charity Asylum Aid, which was also granted permission to appeal against the High Court’s ruling, welcomed the decision.
Carolin Ott, from law firm Leigh Day, said in a statement: “Asylum Aid is relieved that the court has rightly recognised there are compelling reasons for its case to be heard in the Court of Appeal.”
More than 45,000 people arrived in the UK by crossing the English Channel in 2022, and several died in the attempt.
Human rights groups say it is immoral and inhumane to send people more than 6,400km (4,000 miles) to a country they don’t want to live in.
They also cite Rwanda’s human rights record, including allegations of torture and killings of government opponents.
Last month, the High Court said the policy didn’t breach Britain’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention or other international agreements.
But the judges added that the government “must decide if there is anything about each person’s particular circumstances” which meant they should not be sent to Rwanda, and had failed to do that for the eight claimants in the case.