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Only seven asylum seekers set to be on Rwanda deportation flight after dozens of successful appeals

Home Office fears ‘real prospect’ of number of passengers falling to zero

Adam Forrest
Monday 13 June 2022 22:11 BST
‘No Rwanda’ protests staged at immigration removal centre ahead of first deportation flight

The first Rwanda deportation flight appears to be in doubt after a series of legal challenges have pushed the number of asylum seekers booked onboard into single figures.

The Care4Calais group said only seven people were approved for removal on Tuesday’s flight after sucessful individual challenges in recent days.

Up to 130 people were told they could be sent to Rwanda under home secretary Priti Patel’s highly controversial scheme. But the Home Office said last week that 31 people were due to leave on the first flight.

It is understood that the number facing deportation is now rapidly dwindling, with Home Office sources saying there was a “real prospect” of the number falling to zero – thus preventing the flight.

Care4Calais founder Claire Mosely said: “We’ll have to fight every single case individually. We’re very hopeful all of them will be removed from the flight list by tomorrow.”

The charity said 24 individuals the Government wanted to remove had succeeded in having their tickets cancelled and individual appeals against deportation were expected to continue on Tuesday morning.

Home Office sources said the department would operate the flight even if there is just one person on it. One source told The Independent: “The flight would go ahead [if one person was on board]. Legal challenges are still coming in, so we’ll have to wait and see if it goes ahead.”

On Monday Boris Johnson defended the controversial Rwanda plan ahead of fresh legal challenges – insisting that the scheme was always going to have “teething problems”.

Asked whether the flight would still take off it only one person was allowed to leave, the PM told LBC that the government had anticipated that “very active lawyers” would try to stop the flight.

“We’ve always said that we knew this policy would attract the attacks from those who want to have a completely open doors approach to immigration,” the prime minister said.

It came as courts dismissed two last-minute legal challenes on Monday aimed at blocking the government’s policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda before the first removal flight.

Three Court of Appeal judges upheld a ruling against Care4Calais, Detention Action and the PCS trade union on Monday after a judge last week refused their request for an injunction blocking the flight taking off.

Priti Patel signs agreement with Rwandan minister (Flora Thompson/PA) (PA Wire)

The judge said last week there was a “material public interest” in allowing the government to pursue the policy, despite hearing from the UNHRC that scheme was not lawful or safe.

The High Court on Monday separately rejected arguments from Asylum Aid, a refugee charity, which launched a second legal challenge to stop the government flying refugees to Rwanda.

The charity had said the government’s plan to give asylum seekers seven days to obtain legal advice and to present their case to avoid deportation is flawed and unfair.

This case was heard by the same judge who on Friday rejected the first request for an injunction.

Over the weekend, Prince Charles was reported by The Times newspaper to have privately described the government’s policy as “appalling”.

A spokesperson for Charles did not deny he had expressed personal opinions about the policy but said he remains “politically neutral”.

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