The High Court ruling in favour of the Rwanda asylum processing scheme is good news for the Government. As the Daily Mail explains: “judges ruled the plans did not amount to a breach of human rights laws or other international refugee agreements.”
As a result, ministers have a green light, at least in principle, to proceed with the policy. Suella Braverman was quick to restate her commitment to the scheme after the ruling.
However, another part of the judgement suggests that there is still a lot of onerous legal trench warfare still to come: the High Court ruled that the Home Secretary needs to take into account the individual circumstances of every migrant before they are sent to Rwanda. The Government was found to have acted wrongly in the cases of eight individuals for failing to do this.
This cuts directly against the grain of the policy, the point of which is supposed to be that transfer to Rwanda for people crossing the Channel illegally is automatic. That feature is key both to making the scheme practicable and cost-effective, and to the deterrent effect it is meant to have on people attempting that crossing.
(Home Office sources have previously suggested to me that the latter isn’t necessarily about actually sending everyone to Rwanda. Rather, the point is that the prospect of ending up there encourages people crossing to hold on to their paperwork. If they do, then they can actually be processed, and if necessary deported, from the UK relatively simply.)
That gives the various charities, trades unions, and other lobbyists arrayed against the policy innumerable opportunities to clog down actual deportations with case-by-case legal challenges – and that’s on top of a likely appeal against this most recent judgement to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
Little wonder then that the papers are reporting that the next flight might not take off for months, and the Government is refusing to commit to any actually departing in 2023 at all.
There is thus clear political danger for the Conservatives here. If high-profile wins in the courts are not followed by the effective implementation of the policy, that is only going to cause more dissatisfaction amongst voters for whom immigration, and the Channel crisis in particular, is a serious concern.
And this could be exacerbated if, as has been suggested, the Prime Minister’s plan to clear the asylum backlog turns out to be a box-ticking exercise (“amnesty in all but name”) in which huge numbers of applications are signed off for the sake of reducing the headline size of the waiting lists and getting people out of hotels.
As we have pointed out before, what the Government needs is an actual, practical plan for getting the machinery of deportation running. Yet the only thing mentioned in this weeks press reports has been the Bill of Rights Bill, an ill-judged piece of legislation which even if passed scarcely have had time to work before the next election.