HomeLatest NewsTrade union says UK’s Rwanda deportation policy makes officials break law

Trade union says UK’s Rwanda deportation policy makes officials break law

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LONDON: Government officials would be acting unlawfully by implementing Britain’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda in breach of an order from Europe’s human rights court, a civil servants’ trade union told London’s High Court on Thursday.

The FDA union is taking legal action against the government over guidance issued to civil servants on how to implement decisions to remove people from Rwanda. It says this would mean its members breaking international law.

The guidance tells officials to obey ministers if they decide to ignore temporary injunctions – known as interim measures – issued by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which is based in Strasbourg.

The FDA’s lawyers say this unlawfully involves civil servants in “a clear violation of international law” in breach of their code of conduct.

“The Strasbourg court has made clear beyond any doubt that interim measures are not optional,” the union’s lawyer Tom Hickman said.

The first planned flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda was blocked in 2022 after the ECHR issued a temporary injunction – a situation Britain’s new law to implement the Rwanda policy seeks to pre-empt by stating that it is for ministers to decide whether to abide by such an order.

Government lawyers argue that the guidance simply follows the new law and that civil servants following ministers’ decisions would be complying with domestic law.


The legal challenge comes ahead of a July 4 national election in Britain, in which immigration will again be a major political issue as small boats bearing asylum seekers continue to make the perilous journey across the Channel from France.

Sending asylum seekers who have arrived in Britain without permission to Rwanda is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s flagship immigration policy, but legal and parliamentary obstacles have meant it has never got off the ground.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled the plan was unlawful because of the risk that Rwanda would return asylum seekers to their country of origin. Sunak in response signed a new treaty with the east African country and pushed new legislation through parliament to override the Supreme Court ruling.

But implementation of the policy hinges on Sunak’s Conservatives winning the election.

The first flight is due to leave on July 24 if they do. But the opposition Labour Party, leading by about 20 points in opinion polls, has pledged to scrap the plan if elected. AFP

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