Wed. May 29th, 2024

One of the UK’s leading organisations helping victims of torture and trafficking is preparing legal action over the government’s Rwanda plan.

Asylum Aid said it has urgently asked the Home Office to rethink, saying the scheme will not protect abuse victims.

The Home Office has begun detaining migrants in preparation for trying to send a flight in the summer.

Individual migrants could begin their own legal challenges from as early as next week.

Asylum Aid works with some of the most vulnerable refugees in the UK. It is part of the Helen Bamber Foundation, an internationally-recognised organisation dedicated to providing specialist therapeutic support to torture survivors.

The charity said that it had put the Home Office on warning that it intends to take ministers to court because the rulebook for officials now implementing the scheme undermines a key safeguard for refugees that remained in the plan.

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In its detailed policy guidance, the Home Office tells caseworkers they “must” conclude Rwanda is safe even if they have been presented with compelling evidence that sets out why an individual could not be sent there because of their specific circumstances.

Caseworkers have also been ordered to ignore claims that Rwanda might send a migrant on to a dangerous country, even though the legislation seemingly allows individuals to present evidence that would leave them at risk of harm.

The risk that Rwanda would send migrants to countries that torture was the key factor in the Supreme Court’s decision last November to declare the original plan unlawful.

The government has previously said the wording of the legislation means that someone with a very specific and narrow case for protection would not to be sent to Rwanda if they would suffer irreparable harm. But in practice, predicts the charity, officials will end up refusing to consider such compelling evidence.

Asylum Aid says that if the Home Office does not change the directions to caseworkers, to give migrants a fair chance of presenting their case, they will ask a judge to rule whether ministers are failing to follow the law.

Alison Pickup, the charity’s director, said: “There is a lack of information on when flights to Rwanda will take off and who will be on them, but the government has made clear that it is determined to act quickly as we have already seen the Home Office carrying out forcible detentions.

“The panic this causes is made worse by the limited capacity to provide high-quality legal representation in the legal aid and charity sector. We have brought forward this legal action to ensure that the Home Office properly considers any individual cases against removal to Rwanda, including on the grounds that they would be returned from Rwanda to the place they fled.”

The charity’s decision comes days after the First Division Association, the union for senior civil servants, launched its own legal challenge.

It fears ministers will direct officials to break international law and the civil service code, the legally-enshrined rulebook for how government should be run.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

By Joy

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