Vice president on Newsnight: “legal challenges are vital in a democracy”

Lubna Shuja, vice president of the Law Society, appeared on Newsnight on Friday 17 June. She discussed what’s next for the Rwanda policy and the importance of the role of lawyers.
Lubna Shuja at Newsnight studio sitting across from presenter

What’s happening with Rwanda?

The government recently announced its UK-Rwanda migration and economic development partnership.

Under this partnership, Rwanda has agreed to receive asylum seekers whose claims are inadmissible in the UK (including on the basis they’ve stopped in another country on their journey to the UK).

On Tuesday 14 June, the first flight attempting to take asylum seekers to Rwanda was grounded after the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) granted an application and issued an interim measure.

Interim measures are used in urgent cases where there is a risk of irreparable harm – usually where there is a risk to the applicant’s life or where they could suffer serious ill-treatment.

Discover six things you need to know about Rwanda and refugee rights

Judicial review and legal challenges: what’s next?

Two legal challenges were issued in June 2022.

Lubna spoke on Tuesday evening about the progress of the recent legal challenges.

“Judicial review applications have been made to decide whether the policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful.”

Judicial review is a type of legal case that can be used to challenge the lawfulness of a decision or action taken by a public authority, in this case, the government.

Explore the fundamental principles of judicial review

“The judicial review of the Rwanda policy will decide whether the government has followed proper procedures to assess if Rwanda is a ‘safe third country’ to send asylum seekers to, and if the policy complies with the United Nations Refugee Convention.”

Timelines – when will the decision be reached?

The judicial review cases will be heard by the High Court in September and October 2022 and will examine:

  • individual-focused claims challenging the lawfulness of the arrangements to remove individuals from the UK to Rwanda (to be heard over five days starting 5 September)
  • the lawfulness of the government’s rapid process for sending asylum seekers to Rwanda (to be heard on 10–11 October 2022)

Discover six key things to know about Rwanda and refugee rights

Read our joint statement condemning the prime minister’s attack on lawyers

Once the hearings have concluded, the court will give judgment on the legality of the policy. The intention is to give both judgments at the same time.

As these are high profile cases, we may get a judgment quickly, but that remains to be seen.

Could there be flights to Rwanda by the end of this year?

Lubna noted that it would be wise “for the government to wait until they have an outcome. It’s in everybody’s interest for there to be clarity as to what the position is.

“It would be sensible to wait until they know the long-term outcome before arranging further flights.”

We will not know the outcome of the judicial review until judgment has been given by the court.

Legal challenges hold the government to account

Lubna added:

“Legal challenges are vital in a democracy to make sure the government is following the law that’s been set by parliament.

“We have to be able to hold the government to account. The law is there to be applied not only to me and you, but also to the government.

“It’s important that [this] process is in place and there is provision for the government to be accountable.”

Read our joint statement condemning the prime minister’s attack on lawyers

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