European judges could be close to backing down on a court injunction blocking the UK from sending migrants to Rwanda, as the home secretary hails “constructive talks”.
Suella Braverman said she was “encouraged” after “constructive” discussions between the government and the European Court of Human Rights over possible reforms to the court order that grounded deportation flights last year.
A government source said that if implemented, the reforms “would remove a key barrier to getting flights off the ground”.
In 2022, the European Court of Human Rights granted an injunction, via its Rule 39, that effectively grounded a flight sending asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.
Ms Braverman told reporters it was a “blessing” for those entering the UK illegally to be relocated to the country as she completed her trip to the African nation on Sunday.
As part of the discussions with the Strasbourg court, the government has asked for a higher legal threshold for any injunction under Rule 39 to be imposed on any future deportation flights.
It is understood the discussions have also involved the European court taking the High Court decision into account when considering any future Rule 39 orders.
The government also wants the opportunity to make legal representations if the court sought to impose another injunction in the future.
On the discussions with Strasbourg, Ms Braverman said: “The government has been clear that the opaque Strasbourg process which led to the last-minute grounding of our Rwanda flight with a Rule 39 order last year was deeply flawed.
“That’s why we have measures in our bill that will address how the UK intends to comply with such orders in the future.
“But I’ve been encouraged by the government’s constructive recent discussions with Strasbourg, including around possible reforms to Rule 39 procedures, which is obviously something we’d like to see.”
Ms Braverman has visited two housing estates that could become home to migrants on her trip to Rwanda – with some of them boasting off-street parking, gardens and leisure facilities.
Asked if she believed this accommodation would still act as a deterrent, she said: “I think it’s about the balance.
“What I’m trying to illustrate and point out here is that Rwanda has a proud track record of supporting vulnerable people who have come to their country as refugees.
“They have done that through genuine investment, and care and compassion for those people.
“The purpose of pointing that out is to challenge all of the critics who portray Rwanda in an unjustifiable and an unwarranted negative way.
“I encourage all of my critics to actually visit Rwanda before they cast aspersions and throw around incredibly prejudiced and snobbish opinions about what this beautiful country has to offer.”
Speaking about migrants being relocated to Rwanda, Ms Braverman added: “I would call it a blessing.
“We’ve seen refugees from several countries here who are enormously grateful for the sanctuary Rwanda has provided, the educational opportunities, security, a home, opportunities for the future.
“Coming to Rwanda, being resettled in Rwanda will provide these vulnerable people with a prosperous future.”
On Sunday, the African nation’s President Paul Kagame told Ms Braverman his country will “always have capacity” for more refugees during a 45-minute meeting in Kigali.
Mr Kagame said he welcomed the agreement between the two countries – and the expansion of its scope which was finalised at the weekend, adding that he trusted the process that had been agreed between the two countries.
The meeting followed the Home Secretary carrying out a series of engagements, including a street fair organised to celebrate Commonwealth Day and laying a brick at a 528-home housing project on the outskirts of Kigali.
On Saturday, a Home Office source said the government was working towards getting flights off the ground by the summer, and that Ms Braverman acknowledged it was dependent on the pending legal battles.
No migrants have been relocated to the country so far after the deal was signed last April by Ms Braverman’s predecessor Priti Patel.
The home secretary also announced that she had expanded the agreement with Rwanda to incorporate all those illegally entering the UK as opposed to solely asylum seekers.
The addition to the deal is to be put in place to ensure illegal entrants would be detained and swiftly removed under the Illegal Migration Bill (IMB), irrespective of the claim they bring – including asylum, human rights, modern slavery or nothing at all.
Labour’s Lisa Nandy criticised the government’s “unethical, unworkable” Rwanda policy and suggested money from the £140 million deal should be used to aid the National Crime Agency’s efforts to tackle criminal gangs profiting from Channel crossings.
She told Sky News: “Everyone accepts this is a major problem, a crisis. We’ve got record numbers of boats arriving on the coast, criminal gangs profiting and an asylum system in chaos.
“But the question is, what is the government actually doing? So far they’ve done several PR opportunities and photo ops. We’ve had £140 million of cheques written to Rwanda in order to implement a scheme that hasn’t removed a single person.
“This is just more stunts from this government.”