Judges at London’s High Court will rule on Monday whether the British government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal.
Under a deal struck in April, Britain aims to send tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on its shores illegally more than 4,000 miles (6,4000 km) to Rwanda.
The first planned deportation flight was blocked in June by a last-minute injunction from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the strategy’s lawfulness was subsequently challenged by a judicial review at London’s High Court.
In one of his first major policy announcements, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set out a strategy to clamp down on illegal immigration and said he wanted to restart the flights to Rwanda despite opposition from lawmakers in all the main political parties, the United Nations and even King Charles.
A victory for the government on Monday will not mean that flights can take off straight away because there may be a further appeal in the British courts and the ECHR injunction imposed during the summer prevents any immediate deportations until the conclusion of legal action in the United Kingdom.
The prime minister is under growing pressure from his own members of parliament and the public to deal with the arrivals, with figures showing more than 40,000.
Lawyers acting for asylum seekers from countries including Syria, Sudan, and Iraq, as well as charities and Border Force staff told the High Court in hearings this year that the government’s Rwanda policy was inhumane and does not comply with human rights conventions.
Britain says the Rwanda deportation strategy will help deter migrants from making the perilous trip across the Channel and will smash the business model of people-smuggling networks.
Supporters of the Rwanda deal say that sending migrants to the country will reduce overcrowding in processing centres and give genuine refugees a home.
Despite the policy, thousands have continued to arrive in Britain and until recently Rwanda had only set up one hostel to accept UK arrivals, with a capacity for about 100 people, representing 0.35% of all the migrants who arrived in Britain on the small boats last year.
The strategy is based loosely on Australia’s programme of sending migrants to Papua New Guinea and Nauru for processing.
Under the agreement with Rwanda, anyone judged to have entered Britain illegally is eligible for deportation, with the exception of unaccompanied minors.
Deportees granted protection by Rwanda’s government would be eligible to live there but would not be permitted to return to Britain.