LONDON (AP) — Several asylum-seekers and refugee groups began a court challenge on Monday to the British government’s plan to send hundreds of migrants on a one-way trip to Rwanda.
The claimants’ attorney, Raza Husain, argued at the Court of Appeal in London that the “high-profile and controversial” policy was unlawful. He said Rwanda was “an authoritarian one-party state” that “imprisons, tortures and murders” opponents.
The governments of Britain and Rwanda signed a deal a year ago under which some migrants who arrive in the U.K. in small boats would be flown to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. Those granted asylum would stay in Rwanda rather than return to Britain.
Britain’s Conservative government says the plan will smash the business model of people-smuggling gangs and deter migrants from taking risky journeys across the English Channel. More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain by boat in 2022, compared with 8,500 in 2020.
Human rights groups argue it’s inhumane and illegal to send people more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) to a country they don’t want to live in.
No one has yet been sent to Rwanda under the deal. In December, Britain’s High Court ruled the Rwanda policy was legal, but a group of asylum-seekers from countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria was granted permission to appeal.
At the start of the four-day appeal hearing, Husain said the High Court judges had “failed to scrutinize” British government assurances that people sent to Rwanda would not suffer ill-treatment.
David Pannick, representing the government, said in written submissions that there was “a clear and compelling set of reasons why the U.K. government is confident the Rwandan authorities will comply with the assurances.”
The government has also drafted legislation barring anyone who arrives in the U.K. in small boats or by other unauthorized means from applying for asylum. If passed, the Illegal Migration Bill, which returns to Parliament this week, would compel the government to detain all such arrivals and deport them to their homeland or a “safe third country” such as Rwanda.
The U.N. refugee agency says the law breaches U.K. commitments under the international refugee convention. ___
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