Best Use of Law

Attempts to Stop Rwanda Deportation 

Daniel Merriman’s client was detained and told he was being sent to a country he had never heard of and where he had no connections. It took an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights to get him off the plane headed to Rwanda. He, and hundreds of others in the UK, still face the uncertainty of this inhumane policy becoming a reality.

The Campaign

In April 2022, the UK and Rwanda announced a ‘Migration and Economic Development Partnership’, whereby the UK would remove people seeking asylum in the UK to apply in Rwanda instead. The UK would take no responsibility for their asylum claims and there would be no possibility of return. By early May, those initially deemed eligible were notified that they could be removed to Rwanda. A flight was scheduled for 14 June.

The highly traumatised people faced with this scenario were forced to navigate complex legal routes in both the UK and in Strasbourg to simply have their asylum claim heard in the UK. Wilsons were among a wider field of Legal Aid practitioners whose assistance was integral.

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Daniel Merriman, London Resist Racism March and Rally, taken by Maryam Shams, 18 March 2023 (Shaftesbury Avenue)

Representing clients faced with the prospect of removal under the Government’s Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda requires collaborative effort. This ongoing campaign fails within cross-organisational joint efforts: from different firms working together, to charities operating in detention and to Barristers obtaining injunctions as the last domestic legal recourse. Whilst we are facing an unprecedented attack on human and convention rights in this country, we can all contribute to changing the political direction of travel away from a dereliction of responsibility for the most vulnerable people in society, wherever they come from.”

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Daniel Merriman, London Resist Racism March and Rally, taken by Maryam Shams, 18 March 2023 (Shaftesbury Avenue)

Whilst we are facing an unprecedented attack on human and convention rights in this country, we can all contribute to changing the political direction of travel away from a dereliction of responsibility for the most vulnerable people in society, wherever they come from.”

The Change

When Wilsons’ evidence as to why their client should not be subject to this scheme was not accepted, they launched Judicial Review proceedings. However, an application for an interim judgment to suspend his immediate removal was refused mere hours before his deportation was scheduled to begin.

Wilsons went to the European Court of Human Rights out-of-hours to argue that removal would constitute an imminent risk of irreparable harm of a very serious nature. The Court agreed and, 30 minutes before take-off, the client was informed he would not be removed to Rwanda.

The matter is still before the Courts, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking are intervening to provide evidence as to the safety of Rwanda for refugees and evidence on the process in the UK will also be heard.

Wilsons say that, whilst individuals may have had their decisions quashed, the need to amplify opposition to the Government’s course of action remains – the lack of due regard for established international protection norms and the demonisation of refugees is of utmost concern.

The Future

Wilsons’ clients have permission to appeal on the grounds that the policy breaches; Article 31 of the Refugee Convention, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human rights and EU legislation, which they are arguing is still part of UK law under legislation providing for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

They will continue to fight for the rights of vulnerable individuals and in doing so uphold the rule of law, including the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights, which they are determined any individual in the UK should be able to rely on.

Who else was involved?