Shropshire Star

Asylum seekers removed from Rwanda this year, UN body tells court

Several individual asylum seekers are bringing legal action against the Home Office.

A Boeing 767 aircraft at MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury

Asylum seekers have been removed from Rwanda and transferred to countries where they may be at risk as recently as this year, the High Court has been told.

Several individual asylum seekers are bringing legal action against the Home Office over removals to Rwanda, with some claims to be heard at a hearing in early July.

They include a woman bringing a case against the department, who has been told she is in the first cohort of people to be removed on the first flight to the east African country, on July 24.

At a preliminary hearing on Monday, the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, made a successful bid to intervene in the legal challenge.

The High Court in London was told that asylum seekers in Rwanda are at risk of “refoulement” – the process of transferring asylum seekers and refugees to a country where they face persecution – from the Rwandan authorities.

Lawrence Bottinick, on behalf of the UN body, said in a witness statement: “UNHCR is aware of repeated incidents of refoulement from Rwanda and denial of access to the asylum procedure to asylum seekers in Rwanda… subsequent to 27 July 2022.

“These incidents have occurred in a variety of contexts and continued into 2024.”

Mark Vinall, for the Home Office, said in written submissions that the department was “neutral” on whether UNHCR should intervene in the case.

He continued: “It is not clear from the application whether these are allegations which have previously been put to the UK Government, or whether UNHCR sought to ensure that they were placed before Parliament when it came to consider the Safety of Rwanda Bill.

“It is essential that the defendant has a fair opportunity to investigate whatever allegations UNHCR may make, including seeking the government of Rwanda’s side of the story should that be necessary, and to respond to them, in advance of the hearing.”

Monday’s hearing comes after a separate legal challenge over Rwanda removals was heard on June 6.

The FDA trade union, which represents senior civil servants, is bringing legal action over the relationship of the Civil Service Code with the Government’s Safety of Rwanda Act.

Mr Justice Chamberlain will give his decision on the FDA union’s challenge in writing at a later date.

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