Rwanda Policy Advice on Human Rights Court Unlawful, Union Says

(Bloomberg) -- A UK minister’s order to override a European Court of Human Rights ruling and send asylum seekers to Rwanda would be unlawful, lawyers argued at the latest challenge over the government’s controversial immigration policy.

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The FDA, a trade union that represents civil servants, said in a London court on Thursday that government workers are duty bound to comply with orders from the Strasbourg-based court and an instruction by a minister cannot disregard the obligation.

The policy to deport asylum seekers to the African nation is a key part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s election campaign and his promise to “stop the boats.” The legislation allows ministers to waive some elements of international human rights law in the UK, though it stopped short of disapplying the European Convention on Human Rights which the court in Strasbourg oversees.

The guidance “is incorrect in law and misstates the obligations of civil servants under the Civil Service Code,” Tom Hickman, a lawyer for the FDA, said during the Thursday hearing.

The first flights will take off on July 24 if the Conservative Party is voted into power again, the government said earlier this week.

A minister has the right to decide whether the UK will comply with orders form the ECHR on the removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda, lawyers for the Cabinet Office argued.

Disregarding a minister’s decision will create a “constitutional aberration — effectively placing the civil service into the position of primary constitutional decision makers,” James Eadie, a government lawyer said in court filings for the judicial review.

The UK’s top court ruled the plan unlawful last year prompting the legislation that declared Rwanda a safe country to send migrants, stripping the courts of much of the power it has to decide on the issue.

The judicial review is to clarify the legal obligations on civil servants, the FDA’s lawyer said. “It is not to frustrate the government’s policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda.”

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