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On Monday 19 December, Professor Cathryn Costello appeared on the BBC News Channel’s 5pm News bulletin to discuss the ruling by the UK High Court that the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal.

Professor Costello stated that the High Court’s decision was “deeply disappointing, mainly because the legal analysis is quite thin, particularly on three key points of international law, international principles in fact, that I think warranted much deeper examination: the general risks to individuals if they are sent to Rwanda; the question of non-penalisation which I think the High Court did not examine extensively enough – refugees should not be penalised for irregular entry, or stay, into countries in general (that’s in the Refugee Convention); and questions about non-discrimination between different groups of refugees and that only certain refugees end up being in effect penalised or gravely disadvantaged for their mode of entry in to the UK.”

The High Court found that the Home Secretary’s decisions regarding eight individual people due to be sent to Rwanda were unlawful. Costello here argues that this “is indicative I think of wider systemic problems in Home Office decision-making, so it’s very difficult to read the ruling as a vindication. What it means for those individuals is that their cases will have to re-examined fully, and what the Court really emphasises is that before any individual can be…sent, deported, to Rwanda against their wishes, their individual circumstances have to be scrutinised very carefully, and that wasn’t the case here. There were a whole range of factual and procedural errors in each of the eight individual cases. And if that’s indicative of overall problems in Home Office decision-making then obviously it indicates that the feasibility of ever sending [someone] to Rwanda is going to be in doubt.”    

On the Home Office argument that it is trying to stop the smugglers, Professor Costello says: “There is very little evidence base to support the argument that a policy like this, which is after all very difficult to implement…, is going to have any significant deterrent effect. Even if that logic was acceptable, that would be the logic of saying we will treat one vulnerable group of people cruelly in order to deter others from making dangerous journeys, I think we know a lot these days about how refugee situations can be managed differently through mobility, through safe access – and indeed the way that Ukrainian refugees are being welcomed not only in the UK but across the EU is demonstrative evidence that refugee mobility can be enabled, and then refugees don’t need to have recourse to smugglers.”