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Rwanda plan ‘immoral’ despite court ruling, say charities

19 December 2022

ALAMY

Representatives from Care4Calais make a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday after the High Court ruled that the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda was lawful

Representatives from Care4Calais make a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday after the High Court ruled that the Government’s...

CAMPAIGNERS reacted with dismay to a High Court ruling on Monday that the Government’s plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda is lawful.

Delivering a judgment on a judicial review of the policy, judges ruled that the scheme did not breach the UN’s Refugee Convention or human-rights laws. It also ruled that the eight individuals who were due to be deported on the first flight to Rwanda needed to have their cases reconsidered.

Clare Moseley, founder of the refugee charity Care4Calais, one of the organisations that brought the judicial review, said: “We are disappointed with the outcome and are discussing next steps with our legal team. We remain steadfast in our opposition to the Rwanda policy and in our determination to ensure that no refugee is forcibly deported.”

The UK director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, Sarah Teather, said: “The fact that it has been deemed to be legal does not change the fact that it is immoral. It will create fear and trauma for people who deserve our care.

“We have a responsibility to offer sanctuary to refugees. And yet the Government is seeking to shirk that responsibility by forcing the transfer of asylum-seekers to a much poorer and less stable country on another continent. We will continue to support asylum-seekers placed in this awful situation and work with others try and bring the government to face its obligations.” 

Bishops have condemned the Rwanda plan vociferously before now (News, 13 June). In a speech in the House of Lords earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the scheme was “not a solution: it’s a mistake, and it will be a failure” (News, 16 December).

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, told Radio 4 on Monday that the Bishops’ objections had never concerned the lawfulness of the plan: “It is a moral, ethical objection to the policy,” he said.

Nor had they taken issue with Rwanda. “It is about us abrogating our responsibility to deal with asylum claims which are made here in this country,” he said. “Those who are seeking to come to this country need to have their cases heard properly here.”

He continued: “And those who have no right to claim asylum should be safely and humanely returned to the countries from which they come.”

Rwanda had agreed to take just a few hundred people at this point. “We have had over 40,000 arrive on boats; that’s why I don’t think it will work at a deterrent,” he said. People crossing at Calais were willing to take the risk of deportation to Rwanda because they had already risked so much.

Responding to the ruling, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said that she was “committed” to making the policy work. She said, however, that she expected the case to reach the Supreme Court, and said that flights would not leave for Rwanda until the legal process had been exhausted.

Also on Monday, Christian Aid published a report that said that the Home Office had failed to undertake a climate risk-assessment before it announced the Rwanda plan.

AlamyThe Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, outside 10 Downing Street last week

The Christian Aid report, Climate Crisis and UK Rwanda Refugee Policy, says that the charity made a freedom-of-information request to the Home Office, asking whether a climate risk-assessment had been carried out. The Home Office replied: “We have carried out a thorough search and we have established that the Home Office does not hold the information which you have requested relating to a specific risk assessment on the impact of climate change for relocated individuals transferred to Rwanda.”

Christian Aid says, however, that Home Office officials need only have consulted colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: earlier this year, the department published a report jointly with the Met Office, Climate Risk Report for the East Africa Region, which referred to the dangers of rising temperatures and heatwaves, food security, and lethal flood risk.

Christian Aid says that the FCO report demonstrates that Rwanda is a dangerous, unstable, and unsuitable country to which to send refugees who are trying to rebuild their lives.

In a foreword to the Christian Aid report, Lord Sentamu describes himself as a “proud African” and says: “Rwanda is going to become an increasingly inhospitable place in the coming decades. Africa doesn’t need our refugees. It needs investment to accelerate its clean energy development, funding to ensure people can adapt to a changing climate they did not create. . . Refugees are not a problem to be dealt with, but an opportunity for us to help people in great need.

“We should respond with pragmatism and compassion, not paranoia and fear mongering. The money being spent on dystopian military and surveillance infrastructure should go instead towards supporting safe and legal routes and procedures for people who need to move.”

The Christian Aid report also highlights warnings from the World Bank, which published a climate-risk country profile for Rwanda in 2021. That report warns that drought, floods, landslides, wildfires, storms, earthquakes, diseases have driven conflict and pose a threat to the country’s food security.

The report quotes extensively from the World Bank report, in which Rwanda is ranked joint-tenth most vulnerable country in the world. It also refers to a study for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which suggests that hotter-than-normal temperatures in 103 countries, including many in Africa, have increased asylum applications to the European Union.

It also quotes the Red Cross report on climate displacement in 2020, which said that 98 per cent of all disaster-related displacement was in the context of weather and climate hazards. “Rather than seeing climate-induced displacement as a problem to be managed, with vast sums of public money spent on border security and deportation flights to Rwanda, richer countries should be doing more to help those in need,” it declares.

It concludes that the Rwanda resettlement scheme has failed to account for the climate risks posed to refugees being sent there and to their descendants, and calls for the provision of financial support for vulnerable countries. “The need for a specific fund to compensate for the permanent loss and damage caused by climate change is building momentum and the UK government should join those formally backing the idea.”

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