AVID Training
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Since the Rwanda plan was first announced, it has suffered significant setbacks and legal challenges. After the first flight attempt was stalled in June 2022 by individual legal challenges, the plan was found to be unlawful by the High Court and Supreme Court on the basis that people sent to Rwanda face a real and genuine risk of refoulement (forcible return to a country where they are at risk of persecution).

To limit the powers to challenge these plans in the courts and diminish safeguards in place for people seeking asylum in the UK, the UK government has introduced several pieces of legislation:

  • The Nationality and Borders Act 2022: asylum claims made on or after 28th June 2022 can be deemed “inadmissible” (i.e. not considered) on the basis that the person seeking asylum has a “connection” to a safe third country (where connection includes having been present in that country) where they could have made an asylum claim. NOTE: asylum claims made before 28th June 2022 can also be declared inadmissible under paragraphs 345A-B of the archived Immigration Rules provided “exceptional circumstances” did not prevent them from making an asylum claim in a safe third country.
  • The Illegal Migration Act 2023: sets out the duty to remove anyone who arrived in the UK via an irregular route on or after 20th July 2023. People to whom this applies cannot be granted leave to enter or remain in the UK. The duty to remove is not in force at the time of writing on 3rd May 2024. More provisions could come into force now that the Rwanda Act has passed.
  • The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 specifies that Rwanda is a safe country and should be treated conclusively as such by courts and decision makers. A decision not to send someone to Rwanda can only be made based on individual circumstances (such that they would face a real, imminent, and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm if sent to Rwanda), not on grounds that Rwanda is generally unsafe.

After the commencement of the Safety of Rwanda Act on 24th April 2024, hundreds of people were detained and told they were being considered for removal to Rwanda. Since then, the Prime Minister has announced that no flights will take off before the general election.

AVID and our members are calling for the immediate release of all people who have been detained for removal to Rwanda.

What is the process for people considered for removal to Rwanda?

Before someone can be removed to Rwanda they must:

Before someone receives an inadmissibility decision they will be issued with a Notice of Intent (NOI) to say that their claim is being considered for inadmissibility. You can find an example of an NOI on the Duncan Lewis website. If the person is detained, they have 7 days to challenge this notice and if they are not in detention, they have 14 days. The Notice of Intent should also inform the person that they can apply for an extension and how they can do this. People being considered for removal to Rwanda will have this confirmed in their Notice of Intent and, according to the Home Office inadmissibility guidance, people who arrived in the UK after 9th May 2022 will be prioritised (although removal to Rwanda can apply to anyone whose claim is considered inadmissible who claimed asylum on or after 1st January with some exceptions).

When an inadmissibility decision is reached, the person will receive an inadmissibility decision letter (what should be included is set out in the Home Office Guidance on Inadmissibility Cases “Decisions– Summary” section.) The guidance goes on to state that it will usually be appropriate to give a removal decision at the same time.

It is a legal requirement that someone has a minimum of five working days notice between being told they will be removed (receiving a removal decision) and their removal date. The updated Enforced removals: notice periods creates a new three step removal decision process. This is that someone should receive a Notice of a liability to remove (NOL); Notice of intent to remove (NIR) and Notice of departure details (NDD). The NIR is the point at which the 5 day minimum period is in place and tells the person that the SSHD intends to remove them, the destination and their notice period to seek legal advice prior to removal. This will usually be served with the NDD which includes the date of removal, route and destination. As with the notice of intent, the person facing removal or their lawyer can ask for an extension of the notice period “should it be just and reasonable to do so having regard to the overriding principle of ensuring persons have sufficient access to justice” (Enforced removals guidance.)

For people considered "Failed Asylum Seekers" - i.e. where:

  • they have had an earlier protection or human rights claim refused, withdrawn or treated as withdrawn; they do not have an appeal pending against a previous refusal of a protection or human rights claim; they are liable to removal from the UK on the basis that they do not have leave to enter or remain:

They will be issued with a Notice of Intent to Remove (NIR) and given at least 5 working days to seek legal representation and make challenges.

What can visitors do?

There are possible avenues for someone to challenge decisions of inadmissibility and the decision to of removal to Rwanda. Following the government announcement that flights will not take off before the election, the detention of people with a Notice of Intent should also be challenged given there can be no prospect of imminent removal to Rwanda.

If the person you are visiting has received an NOI, NIR and/or inadmissibility decision, the most important step is to make sure that the person you are visiting has access to legal advice.

While visitors are unable to give legal advice unless qualified to do so, sharing information with people in detention and supporting people to understand and claim their rights is an important role you can play. For example, you can ask the person you are visiting if they have received a notice of intent, make sure that they are aware that they have 7 days to challenge this notice and that they can request an extension, and guide people on where to seek information and advice on applying for bail.

Law firms accepting referrals:

In addition to the Detained Duty Advice Scheme, which provides 30 minutes of free advice to people held in immigration removal centres, and should be the first avenue for accessing legal advice, including bail applications: 

  1. Wilson Solictors are taking cases for anyone who has been detained for removal to Rwanda or who has received letters dated after 22 April2024 saying they have been selected for removal to Rwanda - Email rwandareferrals@wilsonllp.co.uk.
  2. Duncan Lewis are accepting referrals to the following email addresses: ToufiqueH@duncanlewis.com; JenniferMat@duncanlewis.com; and ManiniM@duncanlewis.com. Alternatively, you can call 020 7275 2570.
  3. Greater Manchester Aid Unit are accepting referrals for people who live in the North West contact nicola@gmiau.org and title the email “Rwanda”.
  4. Luke and Bridger law based in Nottingham have some capacity to take on cases and assist with new detention/removal claims as long as the individual’s claim falls within the remit of their public law contract. Contact them on: M.Bridger@lukeandbridger.co.uk and Stuart.Luke@lukeandbridger.co.uk.

Before making a referral, remember to get consent to share information with the relevant law firm. Remember that people are likely in a heightened state of stress and visitors can play an important role by being a trusted friend in this time. Meet the person where they are and give them space to tell you what they feel comfortable. We do not advise that you to ask specific questions about someone’s asylum claim but include in the referral as much information as you can.  

The following information is useful to be provide when making a referral:
  • full name, nationality, date of birth, and contact information;
  • date of arrival to the UK and countries passed through on route;
  • date of NOI/NIR and any subsequent decisions (inadmissibility decisions and removal decision);
  • a summary of their asylum claim (if known);
  • physical or mental health needs;
  • any Home Office documents (if possible).

Other organisations offering support:

  • BID's Rwanda project can assist people detained who do not have a lawyer. Contact BID on 02074569750 (Mon-Thurs10am – 12pm)/ RwandaProject@biduk.org.
  • JCWI have produced a short explainer for people potentially affected by the Rwanda Act. The link can be accessed here.
  • Other useful organisations.

Further Reading and Resources:

Challenging the Rwanda Plan

There are three ongoing legal challenges against the Rwanda plan:

  • The FDA trade union's High Court challenge over the Government's Safety of Rwanda Act is ongoing. This challenge focuses on the relationship between the Civil Service Code and the Government's Safety of Rwanda Act.
  • Asylum Aid has successfully challenged parts of the Home Office's Safety of Rwanda policy. The Home Office acknowledged that where a person makes a claim based on compelling evidence relating to their personal circumstances that Rwanda is not safe for them, the guidance is wrong to instruct caseworkers that they “must” still consider Rwanda to be safe when deciding whether the claim for asylum is inadmissible in the UK. Asylum Aid are proceeding with a Judicial Review as the challenge was not fully accepted by the Home Office . Read more from their press release.
  • Human For Rights Network's Legal Action: HRN have launched legal action against the Home Office to prevent the forced removal of unaccompanied children to Rwanda. This will aim to protect vulnerable children from the distressing consequences of this policy and ensure adherence to legal processes for age determination. If visitors meet with people detained as a disputed case with NOI or received NOI when under 18 speak to your co-ordinator.

It has been powerful to see the coming together of different people, organisations and community groups to continue to resist the Rwanda plans. The future of the plans remains uncertain and you can join us in saying these plans are not in our name:

Watch: Hidden Stories