Asylum Aid, a non-profit international organisation that has legally represented asylum seekers for generations, is considering an appeal following the High Court’s decision to rule the Home Office’s removal procedure for refugees as legal. The court found that decisions taken in relation to eight individuals were unlawful due to improper consideration by the Home Secretary.
The High Court’s decision
Following a judicial review claim, the judge ruled that the fast track procedure by which asylum seekers can travel to Rwanda within 12-19 days of receiving notice was fair. This decision was based on consideration of the time it would take for travelers to obtain legal advice, gather evidence and make adequate representations.
The judge also noted that the procedure for processing asylum seekers’ claims under the Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP) does not make an unlawful presumption about the general safety of Rwanda.
The court evaluated separate claims about the lawfulness of the Rwanda policy, brought forward by a number of individuals affected. Among the arguments, the court heard about Rwanda’s poor human rights record. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees discussed serious concerns about Rwanda’s capacity to deal with asylum seekers. While the court found that individual decisions were wrong, the removal scheme itself was considered to be lawful.
Asylum Aid, represented by law firm Leigh Day, had argued in its claim that the procedure, which mirrors the curtailed process previously used for decisions under the Dublin III Agreement, did not allow enough time for proper legal advice and evidence to be obtained.
Asylum Aid argued that the decision to adopt a curtailed process was an error of law. The organisation added that the decision was a serious impediment to justice, failing to discharge the Home Secretary’s duty carefully consider each individual’s case. The grounds were dismissed in the judgment.
Responding to the judgment, Alison Pickup, Director of Asylum Aid, said:
“We will be looking closely at this judgment to see if there are any grounds for an appeal. Meanwhile, we urge the Home Secretary to re-think this inhumane policy and come up with one that can give us all faith in the asylum decision-making process. One that treats asylum applications with the seriousness they deserve and respects the human dignity of those seeking sanctuary here.”
Leigh Day solicitor Carolin Ott said:
“Today’s ruling that the fast-track process to remove refugees to Rwanda is lawful is an immense disappointment to our client. Asylum Aid remains seriously concerned that the curtailed process that has been adopted to forcibly remove asylum seekers from the UK means they will be denied effective access to legal advice and the court. The fact that individual decisions have been deemed unlawful highlights the flaws in the procedure.
“Although decisions in individual cases have been deemed unlawful, that does not address the serious continuing risk that individuals will not be able to make their case due to the curtailed process.
“Asylum Aid believes that without being allowed enough time to seek legal representation and where appropriate, make their case to the court, many vulnerable individuals will be wrongly removed and sent to a country where a blanket assessment of safety remains questionable. Asylum Aid will be considering its legal options.”
Asylum Aid is represented by Leigh Day solicitors Tessa Gregory, Stephanie Hill and Carolin Ott. Counsel instructed are Charlotte Kilroy KC and Harry Adamson of Blackstone Chambers and Michelle Knorr and Sarah Dobbie of Doughty Street Chambers . Asylum Aid has been crowdfunding its case.