While the recent High Court judgment on the Government’s policy of sending people who have claimed asylum in the UK to Rwanda may have found the policy to be lawful, a close reading of the 139-page document should raise significant and serious concerns about the Home Office’s ability to operate the process in a competent or fair way.
193 paragraphs of the judgment focus on the individual cases of eight people that the Home Office had tried to remove in July on the flight to Rwanda that was ultimately cancelled. Throughout those paragraphs, the judges highlight error after error made by the Home Office. In just those eight cases, the High Court found there had been 19 decisions that were legally flawed and ordered the Home Secretary to retake them.
In those eight cases, the Home Office lost.
Time after time, the Court found that the Home Office had either ignored evidence or hadn’t addressed the reasons that people had given for why they should be able to stay in the UK to have their asylum claim determined here. In two cases, the Home Office had used evidence from an interview with entirely the wrong person.
In another, an official decided that a person’s claim should be “inadmissible” to the UK’s asylum process by referencing a separate decision made by another part of the Home Office – despite that decision having not been made until the next day. As the judges say: “We have some difficulty also in understanding how the decision-maker on 4 June 2022 could be relying on a decision by another civil servant which had not yet been taken.”
What’s also clear from the judgment is that these eight cases are fairly representative of a lot of people who claim asylum in the UK. Seven of the eight are from Syria or Iran – both countries whose nationals have very high grant rates in the UK. The eighth was a Vietnamese man who had been working in Ukraine before the latest Russian aggression but who wouldn’t have been eligible for the schemes set up for Ukrainians.
Some had family in the UK – which we know is often a reason why people want to come here to seek asylum – while others were under the control of smugglers and so had no opportunity to apply for asylum in other countries and no choice about their destination.
The failures of the Home Office to comply with their own laws and guidance and properly consider these cases could have led to people being sent halfway around the world, with no route back to the UK even if their asylum claims were successful.
Even after the High Court judgment, it’s unlikely anyone will be removed to Rwanda anytime soon. A further hearing in January will determine whether the decision on the lawfulness of the policy can be appealed or not. The Home Secretary told MPs that flights would only begin once the legal process had come to an end.
But even that’s not the end of the story. While the Home Office may feel like they’ve won after this judgment, the reality is that it not only shows the huge failings in the Home Office’s decision-making processes, but also highlights the barriers the whole Rwanda policy faces in getting anywhere near to the scale claimed by the Government.
On top of this, the Home Office’s own research shows that people seeking asylum have very little, if any, knowledge of the specific immigration policies of different countries. Quite simply, the policy won’t deter people from making dangerous journeys.
Ministers should now press the reset button, scrap the scheme, and instead focus on operating an orderly, humane and fair asylum system and creating more safe routes such as humanitarian visas.