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Migrants in Northern Ireland can’t be deported to Rwanda, High Court rules

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Published Time: 13.05.2024 - 22:40:16 Modified Time: 13.05.2024 - 22:40:16

The Government’s law undermines human rights protections guaranteed in the region, according to Mr Justice Humphreys Asylum seekers cannot be deported to Rwanda from Northern Ireland, a high court judge has ruled

The Government’s law undermines human rights protections guaranteed in the region, according to Mr Justice Humphreys

Asylum seekers cannot be deported to Rwanda from Northern Ireland, a high court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Humphreys said the Government’s law allowing asylum seekers to be deported to Rwanda should be disapplied in Northern Ireland as it undermined human rights protections guaranteed in the region under post-Brexit arrangements.

The judge also said that aspects of the Illegal Migration Act were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Act, introduced last year, gives ministers powers to detain asylum seekers who have arrived illegally in the UK and deport them to a safe third country such as Rwanda.

The post-Brexit Windsor Framework jointly agreed by the UK and EU includes a stipulation that there can be no diminution of the rights provisions contained within Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement of 1998.

Mr Justice Humphreys found that several elements of the Act caused a “significant” diminution of the rights enjoyed by asylum seekers residing in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

‘We must start the flights’

The legal challenge was brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on behalf of a 16-year-old asylum seeker from Iran, who arrived in the UK from France by small boat as a child and is now living in the region.

The Government vowed to appeal the ruling in the Northern Irish courts while Rishi Sunak insisted the court judgment would not derail or delay his Rwanda scheme and plans for deportation flights by July. Hundreds of migrants have been detained in the past two weeks ahead of their removal.

“This judgment changes nothing about our operational plans to send illegal migrants to Rwanda this July or the lawfulness of our illegal migration act,” said the Prime Minister.

“We continue to work to get regular flights off to Rwanda in the coming weeks and nothing will distract us from that or delivering to the timetable I set out. We must start the flights to stop the boats.

“I have been consistently clear that the commitments in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement should be interpreted as they were always intended, and not expanded to cover issues like illegal migration. We will take all steps to defend that position, including through appeal.”

‘Pave the way for legal challenge’

Immigration lawyers said the decision was “potentially very significant” but they did not believe it would affect the initial flights as the migrants earmarked for deportation on the planes entered the UK before the Illegal Migration Act got royal assent.

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