UK’s first Rwanda deportation flight given go-ahead by High Court

Campaigners ‘disappointed’ and ‘deeply concerned’ after bid to stop Tuesday’s flight fails

First Rwanda flight set to go ahead as campaigners lose High Court fight

Home secretary Priti Patel’s highly-controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda on a plane next week has been given the go-ahead, despite warnings by the UN’s refugee agency the scheme is unlawful.

A High Court judge rejected campaigners’ bid for an injunction to stop the Home Office’s first deportation flight to Rwanda, scheduled to leave on Tuesday with 31 migrants onboard.

Despite outrage from human rights groups and opposition MPs, up to 130 people have been notified that they could be sent to the central African nation for asylum “processing”, as the Home Office plans to schedule more flights this year.

The Prince of Wales was reported as privately describing the government’s policy as “appalling”, with Charles said to have been especially frustrated at the policy as he will represent the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda later this month.

The Times and the Daily Mail each said a source had heard the heir to the throne express opposition to the policy several times in private, and that he was "more than disappointed".

Ms Patel welcomed Friday’s court ruling and insisted that she would “not be deterred” by any further attempts “prevent their relocation through legal challenges and last-minute claims” by activists.

“Rwanda is a safe country,” said the home secretary. “We will continue preparations for the first flight to Rwanda, alongside the range of other measures intended to reduce small boat crossings.”

Campaign groups said they were “disappointed” and “deeply concerned” at the verdict – but vowed to keep fighting the Rwanda plan. The decision will not stop individual refugees from making their own legal challenges against removal.

Court documents revealed the Home Office cancelled deportations to Rwanda for five migrants who appealed. Lawyers for almost 100 migrants have submitted legal challenges asking to stay in the UK, with the remaining expected to follow suit.

The court action was brought by lawyers on behalf of Care4Calais and Detention Action, and the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), who challenged the legal principle of the policy.

Rejecting the bid to block the flight, Judge Jonathan Swift said some of the risks facing the deported asylum seekers were small and “in the realms of speculation”. Mr Justice Swift said there was a “material public interest” in allowing the home secretary to implement immigration decisions.

Clare Moseley, founder of Care4Calais responded: “Today was just the beginning of this legal challenge. We believe that the next stage of legal proceedings may bring an end to this utterly barbaric plan.”

Mr Justice Swift did grant the groups permission to appeal Friday’s verdict, suggesting Court of Appeal judges would hear the case on Monday. The judge also said a full judicial hearing to decide on the scheme’s overall legality would take place before the end of July.

Detention Action said: “Our appeal will be heard on Monday and our larger legal case against this policy will be heard over the coming weeks. Thanks to all those standing with us.”

Priti Patel and Rwandan minister Vincent Biruta sign partnership

Under the government scheme, anyone who arrived in Britain by routes deemed illegal since 1 January can be relocated to Rwanda. Government lawyer Mathew Gullick said there was an “important public interest” in deterring illegal immigration.

However, the court was told that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had a number of concerns about the asylum process in Rwanda, including discrimination against LGBT+ people and a lack of legal representation.

The UNHCR also told the High Court that the Home Office had falsely claimed that its Rwanda plan had been approved by the UN refugee agency. Laura Dubinsky QC, representing the agency, said there had been “inaccuracies” in the way the agency’s views had been described.

She said the UNHCR had informed the home secretary that it was unlawful, and added that the body remained concerned about the risk of “serious, irreparable harm” caused to refugees sent to Rwanda.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that the UN agency’s criticisms of the Rwanda scheme were “damning”, adding that it was a “warning about lack of proper treatment for refugees in Rwanda”.

Sir Keir Starmer called the Rwanda plan a “chaotic diversion” on Friday, and said Labour instead would form “a proper plan with the French authorities” to tackle people smuggling.

Boris Johnson said he welcomed the news from the High Court, tweeting: “We cannot allow people traffickers to put lives at risk and our world-leading partnership will help break the business model of these ruthless criminals.”

Enver Soloman, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the government’s plans to push on with the plans despite these legal challenges was “extremely worrying”.

He said: “Government claims that this deal would act as a deterrent to end the model of people-traffickers, have already been disproven with the numbers of people travelling across the channel since the announcement was made almost doubling on the same time last year.”

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