Migrants detained for Rwanda flights released on bail by Home Office

The first asylum seekers bound for Rwanda were detained at the start of May

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Friday 17 May 2024 19:35 BST
Home Office detain first set of migrants to be deported to Rwanda

The Home Office has started releasing migrants detained for Rwanda flights under bail conditions.

Asylum seekers have been being detained for removals since the beginning of May, with Rishi Sunak promising that flights will start by July.

The Home Office is deploying around 800 officers under the plan dubbed Operation Vector to bring selected asylum seekers to removal centres. It emerged on Friday that the first asylum seekers detained under the plan have been released from detention after a court granted them bail.

The government has refused to confirm how many people have been rounded up for deportation to Rwanda, how many have now been granted bail, or how many have been released from detention.

Home Secretary James Cleverly has said that the Rwanda Act is ‘robust’
Home Secretary James Cleverly has said that the Rwanda Act is ‘robust’ (PA Wire)

Charity workers have said that the initial cohort of asylum seekers picked up in the first week of May were mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Eritrea or Iran.

Women as well as men have been detained for removal to Rwanda. It comes as the number of migrants detected crossing the English Channel hit a new record high for the first five months of the year.

Some 9,681 people have been recorded crossing to the UK in 2024, provisional data from the Home Office shows. This would be the highest figure for the first five months since the data count began in 2018.

Home secretary James Cleverly announced this week that failed asylum seekers would also be deported to the east-African country, along with those who have not yet had their claims assessed.

Mr Cleverly also defended the Safety of Rwanda Act as “robust” and said the government was ready for any legal challenges.

Demonstrators at a removal centre at Gatwick protest against plans to send migrants to Rwanda (PA)
Demonstrators at a removal centre at Gatwick protest against plans to send migrants to Rwanda (PA) (PA Archive)

It emerged last week that the government has pencilled in 24 June as the earliest possible date for the flights to take off.

Mr Sunak is facing at least two legal challenges to his Rwanda plan that could delay flights past July. One is being brought by the civil service union the FDA, which is worried about what could happen if civil servants were told by ministers to break international law.

The second is brought by charity Asylum Aid who are arguing that courts should be able to consider whether Rwanda is a safe country when assessing individual challenges from migrants.

It is likely that individual asylum seekers will bring separate legal challenges to their removal, with Home Office officials reportedly fearing that the number of migrants on the first flight could be in single figures.

One source close to planning the flights told The Telegraph: “We will do well to get to double figures on the first flight because of the attrition rate due to legal challenges.”

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