Asylum seekers’ flight to Rwanda cancelled after legal action


The UK government’s plan to send an inaugural flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda on Tuesday has been cancelled after a dramatic last-minute ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Up to seven people who had come to the UK seeking refuge had been expected to be flown to the east African country but was removed from the plane just hours before the flight was due to take off.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “disappointed” but would not be deterred and the “preparation for the next flight begins now”.

The cancellation of the flight followed a UK court saying it could go ahead, and came after a series of legal challenges in Britain failed.

The plane had been due to take off at 22:30 BST from a military airport in Wiltshire but, after a number of linked judgements from the ECtHR in Strasbourg and courts in London, all passengers were removed from it.

In a statement hours before the flight’s planned departure, the ECtHR said it had granted an “urgent interim measure” in the case of an Iraqi man, known only as “KN”.

It said such requests were only granted on an “exceptional basis, when the applicants would otherwise face a real risk of irreversible harm”.

That decision contradicted a ruling by judges in London, who had found no immediate risk to those being sent to Rwanda.

The ECtHR oversees a range of human rights laws to which the UK is a signatory, along with other nations. It is separate from the European Union.

A UK High Court judge ruled on Friday that there should be a full review of the Rwanda removals policy – but that Ms Patel would be acting lawfully if, in the meantime, she sent some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Should the policy be found to be unlawful some people could be returned to the UK from Rwanda.

Ms Patel said it was “very surprising” that the European court had intervened “despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts”.

“I have always said this policy will not be easy to deliver and am disappointed that legal challenge and last-minute claims have meant today’s flight was unable to depart,” she said.

“Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not be deterred from the policy and said the government had always known it would be a “long process” with lots of legal challenges.

He also said the government may “very well” have to change the law to help it with the policy.

But the policy has been criticised by charities and the Church of England and the cancellation of the flight has been welcomed by some.

Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said the fact the flight could not take off was “indicative of the inhumanity of the plan” and said the government had to rethink its plans by having ” a grown-up conversation with France”. (Source: BBC)