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A ‘dark chapter for refugee rights’ begins as judge rules Britain can banish refugees to Rwanda

Campaigners and lawyers get 24 asylum seekers off of scheduled deportation flight, but at least seven others have not been so lucky

A “dark chapter in global refugee rights” has begun, campaigners said today, as the UK’s Court of Appeal rejected a last-ditch legal challenge to stop the government banishing asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The legal challenged began last Friday when Care4Calais, Detention Action and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union called on the High Court to issue an injunction that would have halted the deportation flight scheduled for tomorrow.

The groups hoped to stop any deportations to the central African country until a full hearing into the legality of the policy is held next month.

The United Nations’ human rights agency (UNHCR) was granted permission by the High Court to intervene in Friday’s case.

It said the UK-Rwanda arrangement is inconsistent with the 1951 Refugee Convention and fails to meet the required standards related to the transferring of asylum seekers.

In the end, the High Court judge ruled against the injunction. But the groups were allowed to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

Today’s judge made the same ruling, meaning tomorrow’s expulsion is due to go ahead.

Care4Calais said today that the Rwanda police is not about saving lives, which the UK government claims.

“If we gave other refugees visas like Ukrainians, no one would get in small boats,” the charity said on social media.

“Rwanda is not going to stop people smugglers. The Rwanda plan will push refugees underground and make smugglers’ prices go up.

“Rwanda is not about numbers. Between Ukrainians and people from Hong Kong, we are taking ten years’ worth of Channel refugees in one year.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We shall continue to oppose the government’s cruel and inhumane policies wherever and whenever we can.”

Doctor’s Without Border’s (MSF) advocacy officer Sophie McCann said the government’s first forced removal of refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda tomorrow will be “a dark chapter in global refugee rights.”

Ms McCann said: “The plan to forcibly remove those seeking safety anywhere else outside of the UK is disgraceful, dangerous and an obfuscation of the UK’s responsibilities. It is appalling that the UK would punish individuals simply for seeking safety.

“Instead of opening doors for vulnerable people, this government has closed them. The recently passed Nationality and Borders Act has made the act of seeking asylum, a human right we all have, almost impossible. The Act says a person can only claim asylum once on UK soil, yet there is almost no way left to arrive on UK soil legally.

“We are already seeing a global trend towards policies designed to deter or at least externalise, if not end, migration. By pursuing forced expulsions, the UK is knowingly causing misery and harm, as well as emboldening other countries to further dismantle refugee rights.”

Channel Rescue, a human rights monitoring group based along the southeast coast of England, said the policy does not reflect the views of the British people.

“The Rwanda scheme is a cruel PR stunt that will do nothing to protect human lives and prevent lives lost at sea,” it said.

“It just further criminalises and dehumanises people who are forced to cross the Channel due to there being no safe, accessible routes available to them.”

The refugee rights campaign group Movement for Justice said today that every refugee in the UK will be worried by today’s decision.

“This Rwanda deal signals an end to any notion of human and refugee rights,” it posted on social media today.

“Those we have spoken to with tickets have said they will be dead before the plane lands. We expect desperate suicide attempts in the coming hours

‘This govt is steeped in racism, it’s hands covered in blood. It is down to anti-racist majority of this country to rise up. We must stop this plane, whatever it takes. We must bring down this racist, corrupt, self serving, disgraceful government.”

Meanwhile, 25 asylum seekers who were due to board the Rwanda flight have now had their tickets cancelled.

In the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday’s planned deportation flight, human rights groups and lawyers have tried to stop the British government from carrying out the widely condemned policy.

Three people were saved from the 4,000-mile trip today. But it is thought that there are at least seven others who are still scheduled to be on tomorrow’s flight.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), a charity that fights for just immigration laws in the UK, announced today that it had prevented the Home Office from deporting one of its clients.

JCWI said this was “another sign that we can beat this government’s cruel anti-refugee agenda. Every action counts – and the more of us who come together demanding solidarity and welcome, the better!”

Update: June 13 20:25

Care4Calais has announced that another Rwanda deportee has had their ticket cancelled, meaning there are now only seven people thought to be boarding the flight tomorrow.

Story has been updated above to reflect the new numbers.

Top image shows a plane flying through clouds [Pic: Chongdong Zhu/Creative Commons]

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

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