Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

UK government plans to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda are being challenged in the High Court.The government argues the measures would reduce numbers crossing the English Channel.But critics question Rwanda’s suitability because of concerns about its human rights record.What is the Rwanda asylum plan?The five-year trial will see asylum seekers who arrive in the UK sent to Rwanda on a one-way ticket, to claim asylum there.They may be granted refugee status to stay in Rwanda. If not, they can apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a “safe third country”.ADVERTISEMENTThe government hopes the Rwanda policy will deter people who arrive in the UK through what it calls “illegal, dangerous or unnecessary methods”, such as on small boats which cross the English Channel.How many people cross the Channel?Why do migrants leave France for the UK?What is an asylum seeker?The UN Refugee Agency defines an asylum seeker as someone who has applied for shelter and protection in another country.A refugee is a person who has fled conflict or persecution in their own country.The legal rights of refugees are protected by international law. However, it is up to host countries to decide whether an asylum seeker is granted refugee status.In the year to June 2022, the UK received 63,089 asylum applications, the highest number for nearly 20 years. Of these, almost 16,000 people and their dependants were granted a form of protection by the government.Migrants at Dover on Monday 5 September 2022IMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIAImage caption,New Prime Minister Liz Truss has consistently backed the Rwanda plan to tackle migrationHow many people could be sent to Rwanda?The UK government said “anyone entering the UK illegally” after 1 January 2022 could be sent, with no limit on numbers.Rwanda says it can process 1,000 asylum seekers during the trial period, but has capacity for more.Under the deal, Rwanda can also ask the UK to take in some of its most vulnerable refugees.However, no asylum seeker has actually been sent to the country.The first flight was scheduled to go in June, but was cancelled after legal challenges.Map showing Rwanda1px transparent lineWhat are the legal challenges?Charities, campaign groups and lawyers representing asylum seekers have launched a series of legal challenges against the policy.They deny Rwanda is a safe destination, and argue that the scheme breaks the European Convention on Human Rights.The policy is now subject to a judicial review.If this finds the policy to be unlawful, any asylum seeker sent to Rwanda could be returned. If the government wins, the case may go to the to the Court of Appeal.In October, a second hearing will take place, to hear similar claims brought by the charity Asylum Aid. The decisions will be announced together.Members of the staff board a plane reported by British media to be first to transport migrants to Rwanda, at MOD Boscombe Down in JuneIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERSImage caption,Legal challenges meant the first Rwanda flight was cancelled shortly before take-off in JuneIs Rwanda safe for asylum seekers?The UK government insists Rwanda is a suitable destination, arguing it is a “secure country, with a track record of supporting asylum seekers”.On Monday, its lawyers told the High Court the process was safe, and asylum seekers would be “provided with suitable accommodation and support”.However, lawyers representing those opposed to the policy told the High Court: “Rwanda is in substance a one-party authoritarian state with extreme levels of surveillance that does not tolerate political opposition.”They said it was a country which “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.The UN Refugee Agency said in court that there is no evidence to support the Home Office’s claim that rejected UK asylum seekers would be offered permanent residency in Rwanda.It argued people previously refused asylum by the Rwandan government had been sent to unsafe countries such as Syria.The court was also told that the UK high commissioner to Rwanda had previously told the government the country shouldn’t be used for the policy, warning it had “been accused of recruiting refugees to conduct armed operations in neighbouring countries”.Ministers warned about Rwanda rights, court toldUK ministers partially lose Rwanda secrecy bidLand of safety – or fear? Why Rwanda divides opinionHow much will it cost?The government says the UK’s asylum system costs £1.5bn a year, with more than £4.7m a day spent on hotel accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers.Critics say the daily cost is so high because of the time taken to decide on applications, and a ban on asylum seekers working while waiting for confirmation of their status.When the policy was announced, former Home Office Minister Tom Pursglove said a £120m upfront payment to Rwanda would be followed by further payments as the country handled more cases.He said the cost would be “similar to the amount of money we are spending on this currently”, and that “longer term, by getting this under control, it should help us to save money”.During the judicial review hearings, it emerged that the UK government has agreed to pay the costs for each asylum seeker for the first three years, or five years for asylum seekers who are given refugee status.These would cover flights to Rwanda, food, accommodation, and access to translators and legal advice.Comparisons have been made to Australia’s offshore processing system, which was estimated to cost AUS $957m (£546m) in 2021-22.Removing people from the UK by charter flight cost more than £13,000 per person in 2020.Is the scheme stopping people from coming?The Rwanda policy was first announced by the UK government on 14 April, but there hasn’t been any subsequent drop in the numbers attempting to cross the Channel.More than 27,000 people have made the journey in small boats this year, including more than 2,000 during the first weekend of September.There were 28,526 crossings in the whole of 2021, and just 8,404 in 2020.Border Force union officials previously suggested the final 2022 total could be 60,000 – more than double the 2021 tally.A report by MPs from the Home Affairs Committee suggests that rather than deterring illegal entry to the UK, the policy could be adding to pressure to cross.It warned of “scaremongering from people traffickers that because of new regulations coming in across the Channel it will be much harder to access the UK in future, so they had better get on with it”.

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