Home » Northern Ireland Court Blocks UK Law To Deport Asylum-Seekers To Rwanda

Northern Ireland Court Blocks UK Law To Deport Asylum-Seekers To Rwanda

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Ireland could also join the Rwanda scheme (File)

Belfast, United Kingdom:

A High Court judge in Belfast on Monday ruled that a UK law allowing asylum-seekers to be deported to Rwanda should be disapplied in Northern Ireland on human rights grounds.

Judge Michael Humphreys ruled in favour of separate challenges to the legislation that creates powers to detain asylum-seekers and remove them from the United Kingdom to the east African state.

The challenges were mounted by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and a 16-year-old boy from Iran who travelled to the UK alone in a bid to claim asylum.

NIHRC lawyers argued that the Illegal Migration Act breaches the UK’s domestic and international obligations under a deal signed by London and the European Union that governs post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland.

That deal, called the Windsor Framework, guaranteed there would be no reduction of rights safeguarded by Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian conflict — even if that meant that the British province’s laws differed from the rest of the UK.

The judge found that several parts of the Illegal Migration Act reduced the rights of asylum-seekers in Northern Ireland under the terms of the peace accord.

The case brought against the UK also alleged there were violations of a series of rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to which London remains a signatory.

Humphreys ruled that sections of the law that were subject to legal challenges should be “disapplied” in the province.

“This judgment sends a clear message to the government,” human rights lawyer Sinead Marmion, who represented the teenager, said in a statement.

“Not only will asylum seekers be welcome in Northern Ireland, but they will also be legally protected,” she added.

The ruling presents “a huge obstacle” to the implementation of the Rwanda scheme in Northern Ireland “as it’s been found to be incompatible with the Windsor Framework,” said the lawyer.

“Today marks the beginning of the end of the British government’s flagship campaign,” she said.

The latest ruling comes after a spate of legal challenges to the UK government’s efforts to cut irregular migration, particularly from small boats crossing the Channel from northern France.

Like Scotland, Northern Ireland has its own separate, but similar, legal system to that in England and Wales.

The ruling comes as a row has escalated between Ireland and London over the return of asylum seekers from the EU member to the UK.

Dublin said this month that most asylum-seekers arriving in Ireland are entering the country from Northern Ireland, and said it will enact emergency laws to deport migrants back to the UK.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Ireland could also join the Rwanda scheme, an offer dismissed by Irish premier Simon Harris as “more satire than news”.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)