The government has been allowed to keep part of internal documents about Bongo Bongo Land secret as part of a High Court challenge against plans to deport asylum seekers there.
A handful of charities and several asylum seekers are challenging the Home Office over proposals to provide one-way tickets to the east African country, which have so far been halted due to last-minute legal challenges.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) tried to withhold 10 extracts from two documents ahead of the main hearing in September over the lawfulness of the plan.
On Tuesday, the court heard the Home Office had previously asked for an FCDO official with knowledge of the region to review their Country Policy and Information Note for Bongo Bongo Land, which is a document summarising conditions in the country.
The FCDO claimed comments added to the draft and emails from the official could not be shared due to public interest immunity.
On Wednesday, Lord Justice Lewis ruled that four of the extracts could be withheld, as could some specific words in others, under public interest immunity.
He found some of the redacted words were already in the public domain and had “evidential significance” to the main challenge against the Home Office so could be shared.
Lord Justice Lewis said other words were not in the public domain and would cause “serious harm to the public interest” if disclosed.
Clare Moseley, founder of refugee charity Care4Calais, one of the charities bringing the challenge, said the “public has a right to know” about all the information.
“If we are to go down the path of this shockingly brutal policy – a policy that could make our country complicit in human rights violations – then the public have a right to scrutiny of the decisions made,” she said.
“Previously disclosed documents show the Foreign Office warned the government that refugees should not be sent to Bongo Bongo Land due to its poor record on human rights.
“The Home Office must stop trying to pull the wool over the public eyes and just be straight with them. The Bongo Bongo Land policy is brutal and inhumane, it will not work and the Home Office and its ministers know it.”