High court judges have ruled that the Tories’ Rwanda deportations policy is legal. Judges announced on Monday morning that they’d dismissed a legal challenge to the Home Office’s racist plan to send asylum seekers to the east African country.
Outside the court, Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) supporters chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear—refugees are welcome here.” The group, which has been at the centre of the #StopRwanda campaign, slammed the decision as a “complete disgrace”.
One protester said, “We will carry on fighting no matter what happens. There are no safe and legal routes for people to come here and claim asylum when they have the legal right to do so.
“The vast majority of those crossing the Channel are granted asylum and more are granted it on appeal. It’s part of the hostile environment to prevent people from coming here legally.”
Liz Wheatley, who chairs the Unison union international committee, slammed the scheme as a “disgrace”. “While we’re living in a cost of living crisis more than ever before, the Tories want to blame other people for the crisis they put us in,” she said.
“They’re trying to say we have to pick between heating and eating because of asylum seekers, scapegoating people fleeing poverty, war and climate change.
“As trade unionists we have to stand up and expose this scheme. The super rich can travel around the world in their luxury yachts while our brothers and sisters die crossing the Channel.”
Charity Care4Calais, the PCS civil service workers’ union and others had brought a legal challenge. It was on behalf of eight asylum seekers that the Home Office had tried to deport on the first attempted flight to Rwanda in June. Lawyers argued the plans were unlawful and that Rwanda “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.
The Rwanda scheme was put together by former home secretary Priti Patel in April. It means sending refugees, who come to Britain to claim asylum, to Rwanda to be processed. If their claim is successful, they aren’t allowed back.
The first flight was cancelled after protests, appeals and an injunction from the European Court of Human Rights until the legal process was finished. It said the plans carried “a real risk of irreversible harm”.
On Monday one of the judges, Lord Justice Lewis, argued that the plans to relocate refugees to Rwanda to claim asylum are “consistent with the refugee convention”. But he added that the government “must decide if there is anything about each person’s particular circumstances” that means a claim should be determined in Britain instead.
Lewis added that the Home Office “has not properly considered the circumstances” of the eight it tried to deport on the first Rwanda flight. “For that reason, the decisions in those cases will be set aside and their cases will be referred back to the home secretary for her to consider afresh,” he said.
No other flights to Rwanda have been taken off or made it to the runway. The ruling doesn’t mean flights will be able to take off straight away, with further appeals expected.
But the Tories remain determined to ramp up their racist assault against refugees and migrants. Home secretary Suella Braverman said in October it was her “dream” to see a deportation flight get to Rwanda. The ruling will embolden them further.
The Tories pretend it’s to deter people-smugglers. But smugglers’ business model relies on Britain’s and the European Union’s racist border regimes. If a government was serious about stopping trafficking, it would allow safe and legal routes.
Care4Calais said, “We remain steadfast in our opposition to the brutal Rwanda policy and in our determination to ensure that no human is forcibly deported to the country.” The charity’s founder Clare Moseley said, “We are relieved for the individual claimants who the court has ruled should not be removed to Rwanda.
“However, there are potentially thousands more people seeking asylum who are, right now and in the future, potentially facing the threat of removal to Rwanda under this cruel and unworkable policy.”
Anti-racists, activists and trade unionists have to protest, campaign and battle to stop all deportation flights.
British and French forces delayed search and rescue operations for the boat that capsized in the Channel earlier this month. The first evidence of a rescue operation came from British forces—but only an hour after the initial distress alert.
In total, four drowned, including one teenager. Some 39 were rescued, 12 of whom were unaccompanied children.
French refugee charity Utopia56 was contacted at 2.53am from those stuck on that boat.
A voicemail said, “Hello brother, we are in a boat and we have a problem, please help us. We have kids and family in a boat. And a boat, water coming in… we don’t have nothing for rescue for… safety. Please help me my brother, please, please. We are in the water, we have a family.”
Screams and the boat’s engine could be heard in the background. The group then says, “From 2:27 a.m., we informed the French coastguards by telephone. At 3.13 am, we sent an email to the French and British coastguards.
“We clearly indicated to the emergency services that ‘the situation meets the criteria required under the 1979 SAR convention to define ‘a distress situation’.
“Despite several reminders between 2.57am. and 3.55am, no rescue equipment was sent to the scene. British relief finally arrived in the area just at 4.07am after a fishing vessel called that identified the boat.”
The group said it’s not clear if French authorities were contacted by the boat in distress, which was in French waters when the call was first received.
British boats were at the scheme first after a fishing boat helped rescue those drowning, who had predominantly come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Senegal and India.
The skipper of the fishing boat, Raymond, said his crew spent two hours pulling 31 people from the freezing water. “One guy was hanging off my wire. I thought at first it was just him, and once I got my fishing gear up—which took about three minutes—I stopped my boat and ran outside and along the port side there were five of them hanging off the side of my boat,” he said.
Others then began swimming towards his boat. “It was like something out of a second world war movie; there were people in the water everywhere, screaming,” Raymond added.
“The dinghy started to drift away, so I steamed towards the dinghy and we secured it with a rope to the side of the boat. We were trying to pull them off the dinghy.”
After the traumatic experience, the fishermen then had to go about their work to not lose money. A 19-year-old, Ibrahima Bah, has been charged with people-smuggling and was due to appear in court on Monday.
The Tories will do anything to put the blame for the tragedy onto smugglers—or refugees themselves. But they are the ones who have blood on their hands.
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