LONDON (AP) – The British government vowed yesterday to organise more flights to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda, after a last-minute court judgement grounded the first plane due to take off under the contentious policy.
United Kingdom (UK) Home Secretary Priti Patel said “preparation for the next flight begins now” despite legal rulings that none of the migrants earmarked for deportation could be sent to the East African country. Under a deal signed in April between Britain and Rwanda, the UK government plans to send some migrants who arrive in the UK as stowaways or in small boats to Rwanda, where their asylum claims will be processed. If successful, they will stay in the African country, rather than returning to Britain.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government said the plan is a legitimate way to protect lives and thwart the criminal gangs that send migrants on risky journeys across the English Channel.
Human rights groups argue that the plan rides roughshod over the protections afforded to refugees under rules set up after World War II. They have called the idea unworkable, inhumane and a waste of money – Britain paid Rwanda GBP120 million up front for the deal.
Critics include leaders of the Church of England and – according to British news reports – heir to the throne Prince Charles, who is due to visit Rwanda next week as representative of his mother Queen Elizabeth II.
UK courts refused last week to ground the first flight, scheduled for Tuesday, but the number due to be aboard was whittled down by appeals and legal challenges.
The European Court of Human Rights – an international tribunal supported by 46 countries including the UK – ruled late on Tuesday that an Iraqi man due to be on the plane shouldn’t fly, saying he faced “a real risk of irreversible harm”. That allowed the final few migrants on the plane to win reprieve.