Social Justice

Rwanda judgement means asylum seekers can 'sleep without fear', says charity behind court victory

“This has been a victory for the rule of law and removed an incredible amount of pressure and stress from those we’ve been supporting," says Care4Calais boss Steve Smith

Rwanda deportation flights protest

Protesters gather outside Rwanda House, London: Greg Barradale / The Big Issue

The government’s Rwanda asylum scheme has already done considerable human damage without a flight having taken off, says the head of the charity which defeated the government in today’s Supreme Court battle.

Steve Smith, chief executive of Care4Calais, which was today victorious in its legal challenge, said one asylum seeker in line for removal to Rwanda had told him: “Today I can sleep without fear.”

Although Rishi Sunak has promised to work on a new treaty with Rwanda and even rip up domestic law if necessary, the scheme as it currently stands appears to be in tatters after the Supreme Court ruled it to be unlawful.

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“Our volunteers have been taking heart-rending phone calls from those on the verge of committing suicide. This is how serious this has been,” Smith told The Big Issue.

“This has been a victory for the rule of law and removed an incredible amount of pressure and stress from those we’ve been supporting.”

Under the proposed scheme, asylum seekers would have been sent to Rwanda to have their claims decided by the Rwandan government.

In rejecting a government appeal, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that there was a “real risk” of asylum seekers being sent back to their original country.

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While the government has promised to redouble efforts with Rwanda, the prospect has also been raised of sending asylum seekers to a different country entirely.

Smith said Care4Calais would challenge future schemes on a “case-by-case basis” but predicted any other countries would be “places where human rights probably aren’t respected to the same degree” as countries such as Canada, Denmark, Sweden or Australia.

“It’s people for money, in a way, isn’t it. ‘Take this problem off our hands as we’ll pay for it’,” he added.

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In the aftermath of the decision, talk has grown among Tory MPs of leaving the European Court of Human Rights, and Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson proposed ignoring the Supreme Court and putting planes in the sky anyway, according to The Times‘ Aubrey Allegretti.

“What really worries me at the moment is the way the government seems to want to either implement laws to suit its purpose or break laws,” said Smith.

“The government wanting to break the laws of the country just to get its own way – that’s what governments do in totalitarian regimes.”

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