What we know about the first Rwanda deportation flight

Foreign secretary Liz Truss insists strategy of outsourcing asylum claims to African nation ‘completely moral’

Liz Truss defends Rwanda asylum scheme as 'completely legal and moral'

The government’s first deportation flight to Rwanda looks set to go ahead on Tuesday evening after the Supreme Court refused to consider a fresh appeal by immigrant rights campaigners, ruling that the Court of Appeal’s verdict on Monday was correct.

The strategy of outsourcing asylum claims to an African nation with a highly questionable human rights record has been met with a storm of criticism, from Prince Charles branding it “appalling” to protesters demonstrating outside a detention centre in Crawley and the Home Office in Westminster.

More than two dozen Church of England bishops, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, wrote an open letter to The Times calling it an “immoral policy that shames Britain.”

“The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries,” the clergymen wrote.

Attorneys are still engaging in last-ditch, case-by-case appeals on behalf of migrant clients seeking their exemption, with the number of passengers now said to be down to just seven from 31, according to the campaign group Care4Calais, following a number of successful claims made on their behalf.

But foreign secretary Liz Truss insisted on Tuesday morning during an interview with Sky News that the approach was “completely moral”, that the flight would definitely be going ahead and that anyone who avoided it would be placed on a later one.

“I can’t say how many people will be on the flight, but the really important thing is that we establish the principle and we start to break the business model of these appalling people traffickers who are trading in misery,” she said, declining to acknowledge that her own solution to the problem might bring further misery.

The charter flight to Kigali will be operated by airline Privilege Style, according to the BBC, and is expected to take off at 9.30pm on Tuesday evening.

It is scheduled to take off from an undisclosed location, although Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, has said his information indicates it will depart from MOD Boscombe Down near Salisbury in Wiltshire.

Downing Street has defended the cost of the policy after it was reported that the flight could leave taxpayers with a £500,000 bill.

The spokesman was unable to comment on the cost of the flight but added: “The broader point is that you will know the cost of the current approach to the UK taxpayer is £1.5 billion every year already, we spend almost £5 million a day accommodating asylum seekers in hotels in this country, so this is about finding a long-term solution to a longstanding problem.”

Ms Truss earlier told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “significant” numbers of asylum seekers would be placed on one-way flights to Rwanda by the end of the year.

Boris Johnson has likewise attempted to frame the policy as a bid to disrupt the efforts of human traffickers and even went so far as to accuse lawyers challenging the flights in court of “abetting the work of criminal gangs” during a Cabinet meeting.

The prime minister insisted that his government would not be deterred by the attacks it has been subjected to, “not least from lawyers”, and told ministers that “we are going to get on and deliver”, a mantra no doubt familiar to keen observers of the Partygate furore.

“I think that what the criminal gangs are doing and what those who effectively are abetting the work of the criminal gangs are doing is undermining people’s confidence in the safe and legal system,” Mr Johnson added.

Last year, more than 28,000 people made the dangerous journey across the English Channel in unsafe small boats, many with the support of such gangs, a figure more than three times the total seen in 2020, hence the government’s haste.

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