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Hundreds of people gather outside the U.K. Home Office in London on June 13, 2022 to protest Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

Hundreds of people gather outside the U.K. Home Office in London on June 13, 2022 to protest Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Protests Erupt After UK Court Greenlights Plan to Deport Asylum-Seekers to Rwanda

"What has happened to our humanity?" asked progressive British lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn.

Kenny Stancil

Progressives demonstrated outside the United Kingdom Home Office in London after judges on Monday greenlit right-wing Prime Minister Boris Johnson's widely condemned plan to expel some asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

"Deporting refugees to Rwanda has nothing to do with tackling people-trafficking and everything to do with whipping up hate and stoking division."

Although human rights campaigners called Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel's effort to exile hundreds of people "unethical, immoral, ineffective, costly, and very likely unlawful" when it was unveiled in April, British High Court Justice Jonathan Swift ruled last week that the Tories' new deportation policy is in the "public interest" and denied plaintiffs' request for an injunction ahead of a full judicial review later this summer.

A three-judge panel from the British Court of Appeal on Monday rejected a last-ditch legal challenge from a trade union and two refugee groups—Detention Action and Care4Calais—upholding Swift's decision and refusing to grant permission for an appeal to the British Supreme Court.

Later on Monday, Swift dismissed a separate injunction request brought by Asylum Aid. Barring any new developments, several asylum-seekers are scheduled to be put on a plane to Rwanda on Tuesday night in the first removal flight since the program, officially called the U.K.-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement, was announced.

"Don't despair, get even angrier," Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice U.K., tweeted in response. "If you possibly can, get down to the Home Office now! We can still win this fight. Show them how many of us there are."

Shortly after, Dearden shared a photo depicting a large crowd gathering outside Patel's office.

Labour Party MP Jeremy Corbyn was among those protesting the Johnson administration's outsourcing of migrant detention, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described as an abrogation of the U.K.'s obligations under international law and a "copycat" version of Australia's "disastrous" offshore asylum processing scheme.

"There are 70 million people in this world who are refugees," said Corbyn. "Seventy million people without a home to call their own. Seventy million people facing an uncertain future. They are human beings, just like you and me in this street here today. In a different place in a different time, any one of us could be one of those 70 million."

"Human rights requires, and the law requires, that you treat refugees fairly, safely, and you give them support," the leftist leader continued. "It is a shame, a shame on this country that people who have fled from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine, Yemen, and so many other places are sleeping rough and starving on the streets of our cities."

"What has happened to our humanity in this, the fifth-richest country in the world?" asked Corbyn.

Zarah Sultana, a Labour Party MP who joined Corbyn and other progressive lawmakers and activists at Monday's protest outside the Home Office, said on social media that "deporting refugees to Rwanda has nothing to do with tackling people-trafficking and everything to do with whipping up hate and stoking division."

Eight asylum-seekers are expected to be sent thousands of miles away to Rwanda on Tuesday, according to BBC News.

However, it remains unclear how many people will ultimately board the plane, and there's still a chance Tuesday night's flight to the east African country could be canceled altogether.

"The Home Office will have to deal with a late flurry of individual legal challenges," The Guardian reported, "before the plane is expected to take off at 9:30 pm from Stansted."

"Although it was reported last week that 130 people who had come to the U.K. had been given 'removal directions,' government sources said the numbers of those who might make it on to the plane was dwindling," the newspaper noted.

"I think it could be canceled," said one unnamed government source. "This is due to individual cases rather than a blanket challenge."

According to The Guardian, "Lawyers acting on behalf of those earmarked for removal are said either to have lodged legal appeals over the weekend or warned they would do so on Monday or Tuesday. Many are doing so under the Human Rights Act or modern slavery legislation."

While expressing disappointment about the outcome of its appeal on Monday, Detention Action pointed out that "our larger legal challenge against the policy will be heard in July."

That's when judges will hold a full hearing to determine whether the U.K.-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement is lawful. If the program is deemed illegal, some asylum-seekers deported to Rwanda could be returned to the U.K.—but not before possible exposure to potentially dangerous conditions.

In an open letter urging Patel to rescind the deal and cancel Tuesday's flight, HRW argued on Saturday that "Rwanda cannot be considered a safe third country to send asylum seekers to" given that "arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial detention facilities are commonplace."

"All day and all night I haven't been able to sleep," Abas, a 20-year-old Kurdish Iraqi man told The Guardian on Monday. "Time is ticking. I don't know what’s going to happen. I thought I was coming to freedom but I'm in prison. This will be the end of my life."

Ahmed, a 28-year-old refugee from Iraq, meanwhile, said: "I don't have any requests from the U.K. apart from to keep me here and give me a safe life. I'm an asylum-seeker just like Ukrainian asylum-seekers, and like them I'm seeking a safe place."

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