Opponents of UK’s Rwanda expulsion plan head to court: NPR

Britain’s Prince Charles arrives at a center for refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Ukraine, inside the Romexpo Congress Center, in Bucharest, Romania, on May 25, 2022.

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Britain’s Prince Charles arrives at a center for refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Ukraine, inside the Romexpo Congress Center, in Bucharest, Romania, on May 25, 2022.

Vadim Ghirda / AP

LONDON – Opponents of the British government’s plan to deport migrants to Rwanda are preparing for an appeals court hearing on Monday amid political backlash following reports that Prince Charles privately described the policy as “appalling. “.

A coalition of groups that includes immigration rights defenders and civil servants unions will ask the London Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court ruling allowing the first flight of deportation as scheduled on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservative government in April announced plans to send undocumented migrants to Rwanda, where their asylum claims in the East African nation would be examined. If successful, those migrants would remain in Rwanda. Britain has paid Rwanda 120 million ($ 158 million) upfront and will make additional payments based on the number of people deported.

The program aims to discourage migrants from risking their lives by crossing the English Channel on small boats after the surge in such trips over the past two years. But human rights groups say the policy is illegal, inhumane and will only increase the risks for migrants.

The debate filled the British media over the weekend after the London Times reported that an unidentified person had heard Prince Charles express “multiple times” opposition to politics in private conversations.

“He said he thinks the whole government approach is scary,” the newspaper said, quoting the source.

Charles’s office, Clarence House, declined to comment on “anonymous private conversations” but stressed that the prince remains “politically neutral”.

The neutrality of British royalty is in question

Charles’s comments are problematic because he is the heir to the throne and the British monarch is supposed to remain above the political fray.

The reported conversations raise concerns that Charles may be a neutral monarch after a lifetime of talking about issues ranging from ocean plastic to architectural conservation. Charles, 73, has taken on an increasingly central role in recent months as health problems have limited the activities of her 96-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

People are transporting furniture to one of the places expected to house some of the asylum seekers that will be sent from Britain to Rwanda, in the capital Kigali, Rwanda on May 19, 2022.

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People are transporting furniture to one of the places expected to house some of the asylum seekers that will be sent from Britain to Rwanda, in the capital Kigali, Rwanda on May 19, 2022.

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The comments sparked a firestorm in British newspapers, with the Daily Express warning the Prince of Wales: “Stay out of politics, Charles!” Sunday’s Mail said, “We’re not going back to Rwanda, Charles.”

Johnson’s government shows no signs of a change of course.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis, who represented the government on British Sunday morning television shows, offered a solid defense of the plan, saying the British government wants to overturn the business model of human traffickers.

“The reality is that this is a policy that is working out, to ensure that modern slavery and these people traffickers know that their criminal methods will be dismantled,” he told Sky News.

According to government statistics, more than 28,500 people entered Britain on small boats last year, up from 1,843 in 2019. The risk of such crossings was clarified on 24 November, when 27 people died after their dinghy sank in the waters between Great Britain and France.

The government defends the policy as flights are expected to start on Tuesday

The Interior Ministry, the agency that oversees border enforcement, launched its defense of the policy on Sunday, posting comments from a Rwandan government spokesman on social media.

“It is about protecting and ensuring the well-being and development of both migrants and Rwandans in Rwanda,” said Rwandan spokesman Yolande Makolo.

A High Court judge in London on Friday rejected the plan’s opponents’ request to block British flights for asylum in Rwanda until the court reaches a decision on whether the program is illegal. The decision allows flights to commence even as the broader legal challenge continues.

This ruling has been challenged before the Court of Appeal, which will examine the appeal on Monday.

Government attorney Mathew Gullick said on Friday that 37 people were originally scheduled to be aboard Tuesday’s flight, but six had their deportation orders overturned. The government still intends to operate the flight, he said.

The government did not provide details on those who were selected for deportation, but refugee groups say they include people fleeing Syria and Afghanistan.

Rwanda already hosts tens of thousands of refugees. Competition for land and resources contributed to ethnic and political tensions that culminated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who sought to protect them were killed.

President Paul Kagame’s government made significant economic progress after the genocide, but critics say this came at the expense of strong political repression.

The UN refugee agency has opposed Britain’s plans, saying it is an effort to export the country’s legal obligations to provide asylum to those seeking safe haven.

“People fleeing war, conflict and persecution deserve compassion and empathy,” said Gillian Triggs, assistant to the UNHCR High Commissioner for Protection. “They shouldn’t be traded as commodities and moved overseas for processing.”