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London courts to rule again on legality of London-Kigali asylum plan

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman pushes ahead with scheme, winning backing from Italy's far right leader

The battle over the £120 million (US$150m) 'cash for asylum seekers' agreement between the UK and Rwanda reached the Court of Appeal in London last week, as both governments step up their efforts to promote the programme (AC Dispatches, 21/3/23, After meeting with Kagame, Braverman ploughs on with cash for asylum-seekers scheme).

The scheme has not yet become operational, more than a year after being finalised, because of protracted disputes over its legality (AC Vol 63 No 9, Refugee deal faces delays as legal and political challenges grow).

The High Court in London ruled in December that plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda while their status is being decided are lawful. Then the legal team for a group of asylum seekers challenged the British government's plan before the Court of Appeal in London, on the grounds that Rwanda is not a safe country.

Lawyers representing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in written arguments submitted to the court that the deal will 'expose asylum-seekers to a real risk of breaches of the Refugee Convention.' Yet the political support behind the scheme in Britain's ruling Conservative party is growing.

At the end of last month, the British government's migration control bill, which would increase powers to detain and deport irregular migrants, passed its third reading in the House of Commons.

On a visit to London last week, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni lent her support for the agreement with Kigali adding that it was wrong to describe it as deportation. Meloni is hoping to strike a similar deal with Libya.

'I think that talking about deportation or suggesting that Rwanda would be a country that does not respect rights and would be an inadequate or unworthy nation is a racist way of interpreting things,' she said.

Both London and Kigali are stepping up their efforts to sell the plan in the court of public opinion. Project Associates, a London-based political consultancy, have been brought in to talk up the living conditions and opportunities that await the asylum seekers in Rwanda, we hear. Previously, rival London lobbyists Chelgate had been on retainer for the Rwandan government.

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