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U.K. court upholds plan to deport refugees to Rwanda

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The High Court in London has ruled that a British government policy to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda was lawful. But as Willem Marx reports, the decision is not likely to have any instant impact on the dangerous migrant boat crossings from France that left four people dead this past week.

WILLEM MARX, BYLINE: The new deportation policy was announced in April after tens of thousands of people had already made the hazardous voyage to the coastline of southern England. The U.K. agreed to pay authorities in the African nation of Rwanda to process the claims of asylum-seekers who'd arrived in Britain through such routes, which the British government deemed illegal. The country's then-interior minister argued the plan would not only ease the burden on Britain's clogged asylum system but also deter future migrants from attempting similar voyages.

The first chartered airplane scheduled to take asylum-seekers to Rwanda left entirely empty this summer after each of the designated passengers won legal challenges against their deportations. And since then, the boats from France have kept on coming, alongside criticism from political opponents, human rights activists and even the U.N.'s own refugee agency, UNHCR. Lawyers for eight would-be deportees petitioned the High Court in London to annul their clients' deportation orders and to deem the overall policy unlawful. Today, however, the justices found the policy was in keeping with Britain's legal obligations to asylum-seekers. Lawyer Sophie Lucas works on behalf of several claimants involved in the decision.

SOPHIE LUCAS: Of course, it's disappointing that on a generic level, the court found it's lawful for the government to have made these arrangements for asylum-seekers to be removed to Rwanda to have their claims process.

MARX: But the judges did criticize the government, calling the process around some individual cases, quote, "flawed." And this meant Britain's interior minister or secretary of state for the Home Department will now need to carefully consider each individual's circumstances before considering deportation.

LUCAS: The secretary of state does need to take these cases seriously and make good, proper decisions before she can even attempt to remove anyone to Rwanda, which we maintain would be unlawful in any event.

MARX: Secretary of State Suella Braverman reacted to the ruling with a statement that she was, quote, "committed to moving ahead with the policy as soon as possible." But further court appeals are likely, and until the legal process is entirely exhausted, a European Court's injunction on further deportation flights will remain in place.

For NPR News, I'm Willem Marx. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Willem Marx
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