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UK govt criticises ECHR for Rwanda migrants intervention

LONDON (AFP) – The British government on Thursday said a European rights court should not have blocked the removal of migrants to Rwanda, promising legislation to override some of the court’s orders.

The government said it has been forced to respond with drastic action to record numbers of migrants crossing the Channel because the costs associated with housing asylum seekers are unsustainable.

A charter plane was on the tarmac at a British military base on Tuesday night, ready to take the first batch of claimants to Kigali, when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) stepped in.

The Strasbourg-based court ordered British judges to first examine the legality of the removal scheme in detail, before making any deportations.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the United Kingdom (UK) High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court had all already rejected urgent arguments brought by rights campaigners.

A UK border force officer holds the hand of a migrant as he disembark from a rubber dinghy. PHOTO: AFP

“I think when three courts – and I have got great respect for the judiciary in this country – considered and dismissed the issue, it is not right for Strasbourg to intervene in the way it did,” he told Sky News.

The ECHR is Europe’s top human rights court and serves as a court of last instance in cases where all domestic avenues are exhausted.

“The Strasbourg court itself has said for many years that there’s no binding power of injunction,” Raab, a former lawyer, continued.

“And then later on, they said, ‘Well, actually we can issue such binding judgments’. It is not grounded in the (European) convention (on Human Rights).”

Tuesday’s 11th-hour intervention from the ECHR demonstrated the need for the UK to look again at its human rights legislation, Raab argued.

He said the government would push on with a new “British Bill of Rights”, staying within the convention on which the UK Human Rights Act is based but giving primacy to domestic courts to decide on issues such as deportations.

The ECHR, part of the 46-member Council of Europe, ensures countries respect the European Convention on Human Rights, of which the UK is a signatory.

Tuesday’s ruling by the ECHR involved a rarely used fast-track “urgent interim measure” ordering the UK not to remove an Iraqi man to Rwanda.

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