High Court judges have ruled that the government's policy to remove asylum seekers by deporting them to Rwanda is legal, more than six months after the first scheduled flight was grounded.
However, the court has also ruled that the individual cases of eight asylum seekers, who were originally due to be deported to Rwanda earlier this year, will have to be reconsidered.
Challenges to the policy were brought by charities and asylum seekers who argued that the plans were unlawful at a five-day hearing in September.
In April, then-Home Secretary Priti Patel had announced the agreement with the east African nation that would see some people deported to the country, in an attempt to deter migrants from crossing the English Channel.
PCS, the civil service's biggest union, and charities Care4Calais and Detention Action are among those who have argued in the court that the plans are unlawful, telling judges that Rwanda is an “authoritarian state” that “tortures and murders those it considers to be its opponents”.
An injunction imposed by the European Court of Human Rights in the summer prevents any deportations to Rwanda taking place until the conclusion of the legal action in the UK.
At the 2022 Conservative Party conference, current home secretary Suella Braverman said it was her "dream" to see a flight deporting migrants to Rwanda by Christmas, insisting the government will "stand by" their 2019 manifesto promise to bring net migration numbers down.
Commenting on the High Court’s judgment, Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Rwanda scheme is a "damaging distraction" from the need for the government to reform the asylym system, which Braverman herself has described as a "failure".
Describing the Rwanda policy as "unworkable, unethical, extortionately expensive", Cooper added: “Home Office officials say there's no evidence it'll provide a deterrent and it risks making trafficking worse."
Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft requested a ministerial direction in April, when the policy was annunced saying the “migration and economic development partnership” did not have a strong financial evidence base. Last month, he told MPs he still does not have evidence that the scheme will provide value for money.
The Rwandan government has said it only has the capacity to process 200 people a year – only 0.5 per cent of Channel crossings in 2022.
It is expected that those who brought the legal challenge forward will ask for the case to be heard by the Court of Appeal, further delaying the government's plans.
Caitlin Doherty and Zoe Crowther are reporters for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.