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Sat, 4 February 2023

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Court Rules Rwanda Deportation Policy Is Legal, Airport Christmas Strikes Disruption, Gary Neville Clashes With Tory MP

Court Rules Rwanda Deportation Policy Is Legal, Airport Christmas Strikes Disruption, Gary Neville Clashes With Tory MP

High Court judges ruled on the legality of the Rwanda asylum policy on Monday morning (Alamy)

5 min read

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. 

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) 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 (ECHR) 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 asylum 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.

“The Conservatives have let criminal gangs take hold in the Channel, while their own asylum decision making has collapsed.

"Instead of spending millions on Rwanda the government should put that money into pursuing the criminals who are organising these dangerous boats.”

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: "The Conservatives are betraying the UK’s proud tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing war and persecution, and breaching our commitments under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention." 

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. 

Airport strikes disruption expected over Christmas

Santa at Heathrow Airport
Strike action will affect Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports (Alamy)

People travelling through airports over the Christmas period could face waits at the border of up to two hours, The Times reported on Monday, as strikes are due to hit the peak period. 

The newspaper said that contingency plans being drawn up by officials could mean that passengers will be held on aircraft to stop overcrowding and queues at passport control. 

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union who work for the Home Office at passport desks are due to strike from 23 December to Boxing Day, and then again from 28 December to New Year’s Eve. 

The action will affect Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports. 

Gary Neville clashes with Conservative MP

Former England footballer Gary Neville found himself in a Twitter row with a Conservative MP after he accused the government of “demonising” workers. 

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson accused Neville of “another party political broadcast by a millionaire” after the former Manchester United star talked about low pay and bad conditions for workers in Qatar during ITV’s coverage of the World Cup Final on Sunday. 

Neville said:  “That is something that we can never ever accept in this region or in any region. 

“And it is just worth mentioning that we’ve got a current government in our country who are demonising rail workers, ambulance workers and terrifyingly nurses.

“In our country, we’ve got to look at workers’ rights but certainly when football goes now, we have to make sure we pick up on workers’ rights wherever it goes because people have got to be equal.”

Posting a video clip of Neville’s comments on Twitter last night, Anderson said: “Talk about football Gary and keep your nose out of politics, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

Neville responded: “I’m glad you’re pissed off! The biggest set of charlatans to ever be in power." 

Neville’s comments come ahead of more strikes this week, with rail workers, nurses, and ambulance staff all due to walk out before Christmas this weekend.

Chancellor announces date of Spring Budget

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced today that the next Spring Budget will be held on 15 March 2023. 

The statement will outline the Treasury's economic plans for the rest of the year and will include forecasts for the economy as the country is likely to sink deeper into a long recession. 

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has been commissioned to prepare the fiscal forecast.

The Chancellor's Autumn Statement in November 2022 announced tax rises and spending cuts worth billions of pounds, with Hunt admitting that it would take "difficult decisions" to see the UK through a cost of living crisis in the winter. 

The Spring Statement is expected to make further public spending cuts in order to reduce government borrowing. 

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