Rishi Sunak’s admission to Rwanda sparks legal action by detained asylum seekers | Rwanda

Asylum seekers detained by the Home Office and threatened with deportation to Rwanda will take legal action against the government after Rishi Sunak admitted no flights will take place before the general election.

The Home Office began searching accommodation and detaining people arriving for routine immigration reporting appointments on April 29 in a nationwide initiative called Operation Vector.

Some have been held in immigration removal centers for a month, despite the prime minister announcing that flights would not begin until after the July 4 election – and only “if I am re-elected as prime minister” – while that the Labor Party has promised to scrap the plan if it wins the election.

He Observer can reveal that as recently as Tuesday, Home Office lawyers were fighting legal challenges from detained asylum seekers on the basis that flights to Rwanda were “imminent” and “progressing”, despite the legal department of the government told the high court the same day that there would be no flights before the elections.

Laura Smith, co-legal director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said she was personally involved in a case where the Home Office “insisted on maintaining detention” after Sunak’s statement.

“I think there will be valid claims for damages,” he added. “In our experience, Home Office lawyers continue to act as if nothing has changed. “There appears to be complete confusion, causing immense distress to our customers.”

Lawyers representing detained asylum seekers told the Observer Challenges of illegal detention were increasing, even before the Prime Minister’s statement, because people were being arrested without the Ministry of Interior making the necessary legal decisions to send them to Rwanda.

Lewis Kett, solicitor for Duncan Lewis, said: “There was no justification for stopping them nine to 11 weeks before any possible flights, and even less so after the Prime Minister announced that no flights would be leaving before the election.

Rishi Sunak holds emergency press conference on his updated plans on illegal migration, December 2023. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

“There are doubts about whether he knew this would be the case when the arrest operation began. “Almost all are likely to bring strong claims for unlawful detention and compensation.”

The Home Office has refused to reveal how many asylum seekers have so far been released on immigration bail and how many remain in detention.

The charity Detention Action warned that several people it supported were suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts while detained on flights to Rwanda. Its deputy director, Jade Glenister, said: “With many people detained since the end of April, it is clear that their removal was never ‘imminent’. His arrest was never justified. “They should be urgently released into safe and welcoming accommodation.”

The new legal cases join three other challenges that will be heard in the high court this week. A preliminary hearing will be held on Monday for a case against new “Rwanda security” guidelines for public officials, brought by the charity Asylum Aid, along with a challenge by an asylum seeker selected for Rwanda.

On Thursday the high court will consider arguments by the FDA public servants’ union that Rwanda’s security bill is illegal because it allows ministers to order civil servants to ignore court orders from the European Court of Human Rights.

Home Office sources say civil servants have been told to continue implementing the Rwanda plan and the Conservatives’ new small boat laws, despite Labor pledging to scrap both. “There are currently Ministry of Interior personnel who are joining and relocating to Rwanda in the last week of June,” an official told the Observer. “The implementation has not stopped; We are still wasting money on those tricks. “It’s all a waste of time and money if the Conservatives win the election.”

A job advert for a Kigali-based “first secretary” of the scheme was only closed on Monday, four days after Sunak’s statement. He said the position required a person with “a strong grip on important and controversial issues” and “sound political judgment.”

The document said a “small Interior Ministry team” would be based in Rwanda’s capital to “drive the execution” of the partnership and “make high-risk decisions.”

Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ flagship Illegal Migration Bill, which Sunak promised would allow the government to detain and deport migrants in small boats, has yet to be implemented.

Since the election was held almost a year after receiving royal consent, public officials believe it will never come into force. “We continue working as usual, although everyone wonders why,” said the official.

A report published Wednesday by parliament’s public accounts committee said 50,000 asylum seekers are now “in limbo” because the government refuses to consider their claims but has no way of deporting them.

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