ASYLUM Aid has launched legal action against the Home Office’s new Safety of Rwanda policy, published on 29 April 2024, on grounds that it is inconsistent with the Safety of Rwanda Act which was given Royal Assent on 25 April.

Represented by law firm Leigh Day, the charity has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Home Office, highlighting that its policy, which details how the Act will be implemented, fundamentally misunderstands the Act.

The Home Office policy requires its caseworkers to assume that Rwanda is generally safe, as set out in section 2 of the Rwanda Act. It goes on to instruct caseworkers that when considering whether an asylum claim is inadmissible in the UK, allowing them to be removed to Rwanda, they “must” conclude that Rwanda is safe, even if presented with compelling evidence that it is not safe for that person based on their individual circumstances.

It also tells caseworkers that they “must not consider claims on the basis that Rwanda will or may remove or send the person in question to an unsafe state”.

This, however, is at odds with section 4 of the Rwanda Act, which allows a person seeking asylum to challenge their removal to Rwanda on the basis of “compelling evidence relating specifically to the person’s particular individual circumstances” that Rwanda is not safe for them.

As a charity that provides free and high-quality legal representation to people seeking asylum in the UK, Asylum Aid is concerned that this inconsistency between the Act and the Home Office policy will lead to the Home Office refusing to consider compelling evidence of individual risk, and it will impede the charity’s ability to properly advise its clients on their cases.

Asylum Aid says it is also concerned that the Home Office’s policy, which could lead to it unlawfully denying people seeking asylum being admitted into the UK asylum system, puts individuals who are unable to access effective legal representation at great risk.

It is bringing legal action to urge the Home Office to amend its policy to bring it into line with the Safety of Rwanda Act.

The letter, sent to Government lawyers on Thursday 2 May, urges the Home Office to amend its policy in line with the Safety of Rwanda Act as Asylum Aid understands it. If the Home Office does not amend its policy, Asylum Aid intends to proceed with a judicial review application to ask the High Court to rule on whether the Home Office has correctly interpreted the Rwanda Act when publishing its policy.

The Executive Director of Asylum Aid, Alison Pickup, said: “There is a lack of information on when flights to Rwanda will take off and who will be on them, but the government has made clear that it is determined to act quickly as we have already seen the Home Office carrying out forcible detentions. The panic this causes is made worse by the limited capacity to provide high quality legal representation in the legal aid and charity sector. We have brought forward this legal action to ensure that the Home Office properly considers any individual cases against removal to Rwanda, including on the grounds that they would be returned from Rwanda to the place they fled.”

Leigh Day partner Tessa Gregory said: “Our client, Asylum Aid, has begun legal action as it is extremely concerned that the policy the Home Office has adopted to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful as it misconstrues the Safety of Rwanda Act as enacted by Parliament. Asylum Aid considers that the impact of the unlawful policy is that contrary to a key protection built into the Safety of Rwanda Act, all those threatened with removal to Rwanda will be deprived of proper consideration of their individual claims.”

* Asylum Aid is crowdfunding its legal action Help us fight the government’s Rwanda plan here.

* Source: Leigh Day