Suella Braverman has defended the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda after the High Court ruled earlier on Tuesday that the scheme is lawful.
Making a statement in the Commons, the home secretary said the Rwanda policy is a “humane” and “practical alternative” for those who come to the UK through “dangerous, illegal and unnecessary routes”.
“Being relocated to Rwanda is not a punishment, but an innovative way of addressing a major problem to redress the imbalance between illegal and legal migration routes,” she told MPs.
“It will also ensure that those in genuine need of international protection are provided with it in Rwanda.
“It is a humane and practical alternative for those who come here through dangerous, illegal and unnecessary routes.
“By making it clear that they cannot expect to stay in the UK, we will deter more people from coming here and make such routes unviable.”
Ms Braverman said the “overwhelming majority of British people” want to see the government’s Rwanda deportation policy carried out, adding that the High Court ruling “thoroughly vindicates the Rwanda partnership”.
Earlier on Monday, Lord Justice Lewis said in his ruling that the controversial policy, introduced under Boris Johnson, was “consistent with the refugee convention”.
However, he said the home secretary should look at people’s “particular circumstances” before deporting them to the central African country.
The senior judge ruled the first people who were set to be sent to Rwanda had not had their circumstances “properly considered” by the person then in the post, Priti Patel.
As a result, their cases would be referred back to the current home secretary, Suella Braverman, “for her to consider afresh”.
‘Immoral and ineffective’
Responding to Ms Braverman in the Commons, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the government has “put forward an unworkable, unethical, extremely expensive Rwanda plan that risks making trafficking worse”.
Ms Cooper added that the government must invest the money it is spending on the Rwanda plan to tackle criminal trafficking instead, “who are putting lives at risk”.
The Liberal Democrats echoed the sentiment, with MP Alistair Carmichael saying it was “immoral, ineffective and incredibly costly for taxpayers”.
Meanwhile, charities and campaign groups vowed to challenge the decision to ensure “people are treated with dignity and respect”.
The government announced its Rwanda policy back in April, which would see some asylum seekers who had reached the UK via small boat Channel crossings deported to the country to have their cases processed.
Ms Patel said it would help deter people from making the dangerous journey, but human rights campaigners, charities and opposition parties condemned the plan as inhumane.
The first flight was set to take off in June with four people on board, but was halted after a number of legal challenges and the European Court of Human Rights ruling the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm”.
However, both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss insisted they would push ahead with the policy when they took the keys to Number 10.
Eight people brought their cases to the High Court to fight against the decision to send them to Rwanda, giving the UK’s most senior judges the opportunity to rule on the overall policy, as well as the individuals.
Their lawyers argued the plans were unlawful and that Rwanda “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.
But representatives from the Home Office argued the agreement between the UK and the country provided assurances that everyone sent there would have a “safe and effective” refugee status determination procedure.
The chief executive of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, said he was “disappointed” by the overall ruling, saying it would “damage the UK’s reputation as a country that values human rights”.
He added: “Treating people who are in search of safety like human cargo and shipping them off to another country is a cruel policy that will cause great human suffering.
“The scheme is wrong in principle and unworkable in practice.”
Rwanda official hails ‘positive step’
The chief executive of migrant charity Choose Love, Josie Naughton, also said the decision by the court “flies in the face of international commitments and accountability”.
She added it would “tear apart families, prolong persecution and put victims of torture and trauma in danger once again”.
But the Rwandan government welcomed the ruling, with spokeswoman Yolande Makolo saying: “We welcome this decision and stand ready to offer asylum seekers and migrants safety and the opportunity to build a new life in Rwanda.
“This is a positive step in our quest to contribute innovative, long-term solutions to the global migration crisis.”
The prime minister’s official spokesman said it wanted to restart the plan “as soon as possible”, but with the prospect of further legal action, it was “impossible” to say when a flight may happen.
“We welcome the court’s judgment that this policy is lawful, as we have argued throughout,” he added.
Lord Justice Lewis said a further hearing would take place in mid-January to handle the consequences of the judgment, including costs and applications to go to the Court of Appeal.