On Tuesday 12 December, the draft Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill passed the second reading stage in the House of Commons. The vote was not the start of the story in relation to the Government’s policy: since the Rwanda policy was announced in April 2022, it has been the subject of much legal challenge. What is perhaps less known is that various charities also brought legal challenges.  

Asylum Aid claimed that the policy was systemically unfair. It was ultimately decided that once claims covering the same grounds had been filed by others (who were directly affected), it was no longer appropriate for Asylum Aid to pursue the claim, but the charity played an important role getting the matter off the ground.

Detention Action and Care4Calais also brought claims for Judicial Review, although it was eventually decided that they lacked standing. The Court did however comment that it was “admirable that such organisations provide practical and financial support for persons who are subject to immigration control and wish to challenge decisions the Home Secretary has taken.”

Despite being unsuccessful, the claims brought by charities helped to stop the Government in its tracks and shone a light on the Government’s policy.

We regularly advise clients who want to bring strategic claims i.e. one that pursues a purposeful outcome over and above just financial damages. We advise clients to consider the impact they’d like a claim to have. Claims do not have to succeed in Court to be “successful”. The aim could be to gain traction from a PR perspective, draw an issue to the attention of the public or Parliament, or to influence policy.

Some charities might see the regulatory background as a barrier to bringing these claims. In Care4Calais’ case, however, the Charity Commission found that the legal action was acceptable political activity to further its charitable objects.

Some clients we work with are also concerned that legal action is a serious incident that would need to be reported to the Charity Commission. However, charities incurring costs through routine litigation – that is undertaken in line with charitable aims and on behalf of beneficiaries would not need to be reported.

So, what is next for the Rwanda policy? In terms of the claims that did proceed, the Supreme Court ruled on 15 November 2023 that the Government’s proposed policy in relation to Rwanda was unlawful. The Secretary of State’s appeal was dismissed on the basis that the removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda would expose them to a real risk of being forcibly returned to their countries of origin.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, a new treaty was signed with Rwanda and the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill was introduced. The vote this week in its favour is not the end of the road, however, and further legal challenges are possible and expected before the Bill obtains royal assent.