British woman protests deportations

A woman protests against the deportation of asylum-seekers to Rwanda at the United Kingdom's Boscombe Down Air Base on June 14, 2022. A planned flight was ultimately canceled. (Photo: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

UK Court Upholds 'Inhumane' Plan to Send Asylum-Seekers to Rwanda

"People will not stand by and watch this government treat refugees like human cargo," said one rights groups.

Human rights advocates on Monday vowed to continue fighting the United Kingdom's plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda if they arrive in the U.K. after crossing the English Channel by boat, after the country's High Court ruled that the Conservative Party's plan is lawful.

"If the government moves ahead with these harmful plans, it would damage the U.K.'s reputation as a country that values human rights."

Asylum Aid, which challenged the plan after it was introduced earlier this year, said it is determining whether "there are any grounds for appeal," while the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) vowed to continue leading opponents of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson's policy in obstructing the Conservatives' plans.

"We know that people coming together to oppose these flights is powerful," said the group, noting that a charter airline contracted to fly refugees to Rwanda pulled out of the deal under pressure. "People will not stand by and watch this government treat refugees like human cargo."

The High Court did rule that eight specific cases of refugees should be reconsidered and directed Home Secretary Suella Braverman to "decide if there is anything about each person's particular circumstances which means that his asylum claim should be determined in the United Kingdom or whether there are other reasons why he should not be relocated to Rwanda," rather than issuing a blanket policy for the thousands of people who arrive in the U.K. by small boat each year.

But it also said the policy does not run afoul of the country's Human Rights Act of 1998 and its obligations to refugees.

Enver Solomon, CEO of Refugee Council, argued the ruling violates international law.

"If the government moves ahead with these harmful plans, it would damage the U.K.'s reputation as a country that values human rights and undermine our commitment to provide safety to those fleeing conflict and oppression, as enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention," said Solomon, adding that the "hugely expensive" policy does not deter people from entering the U.K. by small boat, as the Conservatives intend to do.

Under the plan, Britain is paying more than PS120 million ($147 million) to finance education and job skills training for people it sends to Rwanda, under the stipulation that they cannot return to the United Kingdom. No one has been sent to Rwanda yet, as an order to send several people to the East African country was halted in June following a legal challenge.

Rwandan officials have said they can process 1,000 people during an initial trial period.

Advocates have decried the U.K. for entering into a deal with a country with what Human Rights Watch Central Africa director Lewis Mudge called an "abysmal human rights record" on Monday.

"The choice to enter into an asylum partnership with a government that takes pride in the assassinations and renditions of political opponents abroad, some of whom had refugee status at the time, shows just how far the U.K. is willing to go to shirk its own responsibilities to asylum-seekers," Mudge toldThe New York Times.

Rwanda has entered into agreements to resettle asylum-seekers in the past. In 2018, 12 refugees were killed by Rwandan police after a demonstration, and thousands of people who were deported from Israel between 2014 and 2017 left the country shortly after arriving. According toThe Guardian, one person who remained "described being destitute and living on the streets of Rwanda's capital, Kigali."

Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. director for Human Rights Watch, accused the country of "racing to the bottom to dismantle" refugee protections that were agreed to internationally after World War II.

"No matter how people arrive, they have the right under international law to claim asylum," said Ahmed. "People only come via unsafe routes, risking their and their children's lives, because the government has not provided sufficient safe ones."

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