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Campaigners and migrants launch legal bid to stop Rwanda asylum flight

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Tuesday June 7, 2022.
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel. Picture date: Tuesday June 7, 2022.

Campaigners have formally launched their court bid to stop the Government’s controversial plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Care4Calais and Detention Action have issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court, challenging what they describe as an “unlawful policy” by Home Secretary Priti Patel to remove asylum seekers to the east African nation.

The first flight from the UK containing migrants is expected to leave next Tuesday, but lawyers for more than 90 migrants have already submitted legal challenges asking to stay in the UK.

Home Office officials are thought to be anticipating that the remaining 38 or so notified to be on the June 14 flight will follow suit this week.

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel on Tuesday (Gareth Fuller/PA)

It comes as the latest figures show more than 10,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year.

James Wilson, deputy director of Detention Action, said: “In her desire to punish people for seeking asylum by forcing them onto a plane to Rwanda, Priti Patel has overstepped her authority.

“By rushing through what we say is an unlawful policy, she is turning a blind eye to the many clear dangers and human rights violations that it would inflict on people seeking asylum.

“It’s vital that new Government policies respect and uphold the laws that we all, as a society, have agreed to follow. That’s why we’re seeking an injunction to keep this plane to Rwanda from leaving the runway.”

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais, said the vast majority of the 100 or so people being detained pending their removal to Rwanda that lawyers have spoken to are “overwhelmed by total shock and despair”.

Priti Patel visit to Rwanda
Home Secretary Priti Patel, pictured with Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, has come in for criticism from campaigners over the plan (Flora Thompson/PA)

She said: “Many came to the UK believing it to be a good place that would treat them more fairly than the places from which they escaped.

“We say that the Rwanda plan is unlawful. We hope the courts will agree with us.”

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union which represents the majority of Border Force staff, said: “It appears this Government has learned nothing from the Windrush scandal, among others.

“PCS is not prepared to countenance our members being put in potentially dangerous and traumatic situations, where they may be asked to act illegally.”

Channel crossings resumed on Tuesday after a three-day hiatus, with 79 people arriving in Dover, Kent, according to Ministry of Defence (MoD) data.

This takes the total for the year to date to 10,020, analysis of Government figures by the PA news agency shows.

A Home Office spokeswoman said:  “Our world-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 expected legal challenges however we are determined to deliver this new partnership.

“We have now issued formal directions to the first group of people due to be relocated to Rwanda later this month. This marks a critical step towards operationalising the policy, which fully complies with international and national law.”