United Kingdom

Priti Patel’s plan for Rwanda for UK asylum seekers faces first legal challenge | Refugees

The first lawsuit was filed against Priti Patel’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, as the UN refugee agency expressed concern that the United Kingdom was “inviting” other European countries to adopt the same divisive immigration policy.

Filed last Tuesday, the legal dispute alleges that the interior minister’s proposals run counter to international law and the UN refugee convention, as well as violating British data protection law.

Lawyers say Rwanda’s plans are an “advertising stunt” to discourage people crossing the English Channel in small boats. Patel refuses to disclose key framework documents explaining which migrants may be eligible for removal.

We are concerned that the British are urging their European counterparts to do the same to give such deals more tangible legitimacy. Larry Botinique, UNHCR

Larry Botinique, UNHCR’s United Kingdom Representative, told the Observer: “We are concerned that they [the British] invite all their European colleagues to do the same. I can understand from their point of view why they would do this – it would give such deals more legitimacy if others did the same. Denmark has already expressed interest in outsourcing elements of its Rwanda asylum system.

Botinique added that Britain would welcome other countries to follow suit, as that would mean even fewer refugees would reach northern France. He warned: “This will increase the pressure on those countries neighboring conflict zones that already host the vast majority of asylum seekers.”

The campaign was launched by InstaLaw law firm. The interior ministry has three weeks to respond, and the process could lead to Patel’s challenge in the Supreme Court. Stuart Luke, an InstaLaw partner, said their case was based on an Iranian asylum seeker who believed he would face an extremely difficult time if sent to Rwanda. “He may be the only Iranian in the country, there is no network, no community, no one who speaks the language. How will he cope, will he survive? How will he find a job, will he be educated? ” said Luke.

Initially, the Interior Ministry assured that it would not deport him before May 10 – but on Friday the department backed down and said it did not want to deport him.

Botinik said UNHCR has “serious concerns” about how the Home Office and Rwanda intend to integrate non-African asylum seekers, who make up the vast majority of those arriving in the UK.

“There will be major problems such as the translation into Vietnamese and Albanian. Major arrivals in the UK also include Iranians, Iraqis and Syrians. We have serious concerns about Rwanda’s ability to integrate these groups.

The legal move came when activists accused Patel of “racist” and “inhuman” policies over the Rwanda plan during her appearance at a Conservative party dinner. The interior minister was speaking at a dinner hosted by Bassetlaw Conservatives in Nottinghamshire on Friday, when several activists stood in their seats and condemned her for politics.

Footage posted on social media shows a woman standing up and telling Patel: “Priti Patel, your racist policies are killing people. Your plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda are inhumane and will ruin people’s lives. The woman was booed before she was taken away. A number of other activists then stood up and made statements.

The Interior Ministry contacted for comment.