Legal challenges by four asylum seekers set to be deported on a flight to Rwanda tonight have been rejected.
A Boeing 767-300 stands ready on a Ministry of Defence runway at Boscombe Down in Amesbury to take the first migrants to the east African country tonight.
A Kurdish man had his bid to prevent his removal to Rwanda rejected by the High Court this afternoon by Mr Justice Smith, who also refused him permission to appeal.
Challenges by three other asylum seekers were rejected earlier in the day.
A fifth man lost a bid to bring an appeal at the Supreme Court after a panel of three justices refused him permission to challenge the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the flight to Rwanda could go ahead.
This rejected an appeal by two refugee charities and the Public and Commercial Services union.
Giving brief reasons for the decision, the court’s president, Lord Reed, said there had been an “assurance” that, if the government’s policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda is found to be unlawful, steps would be taken to bring back any migrants flown to the east African nation in the interim.
Stop Deportations protesters have taken direct action to resist the first deportation flight, locking themselves together with metal pipes and blockading exits of Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre at Heathrow where the remaining people the Home Office intended to put on the flight to Rwanda are believed to be being held.
“This policy is the result of years of portraying migrants as less than human beings; it makes it possible for the Home Office to inflict pain on them and get away with it. We, the public refuse to accept the Home Office’s cruel, inhumane and unlawful plans,” a Stop Deportations activist said.
But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has insisted the flight to Rwanda will take off no matter how few people are on board and said the scheme is both legal and “value for money”
The plan to send individuals to Rwanda has been contested in the courts and condemned by the Church of England’s senior bishops as “an immoral policy”.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has maintained that the policy’s aim is “to support safe and legal routes for people to come to the UK and to oppose the illegal and dangerous routes”.
PM pledges to ‘keep going’ with Rwanda policy
Mr Johnson added that the programme “may take a while to get working properly, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep going”.
Asked if it would be necessary to pull out of the European Convention of Human Rights to restrict legal challenges, Mr Johnson added: “Will it be necessary to change some laws to help us as we go along? It may very well be and all these options are under constant review.”
Seven asylum seekers were due to be on the first flight from the UK to the east African country, set to take off this evening.
But the charity Care4Calais, one of the organisations attempting to stop tonight’s flight, has reported that the European Court of Human Rights has granted an injunction against one of the seven migrants due to board the plane.
The organisation says it is hopeful this intervention from the Strasbourg court will lead to the remaining individuals being pulled off the flight at the last minute.
The four potential deportees who today lost High Court bids to avoid being put on the plane include:
• an Iraqi Kurd who had suffered PTSD in Turkey while travelling to the UK and had brought a claim asking not to be removed due to his mental health and his relationship with his sister, who lives in the UK.
• a Vietnamese man who claimed to have received death threats from loan sharks in Vietnam who was also denied after the judge rejected an argument that he was denied translation services.
• a man who travelled to the UK from Iran with his 21-year-old son and had asked the court to prevent his removal due to his mental health and a right to a family life.
• an application by a Kurdish man who was also refused permission to appeal.
Truss rejects view that Rwanda plan ‘shames Britain’
Lawyers discussed in court how claimants could appeal the rulings if they were deported. Any appeals would be first heard at the Court of Appeal, and then an application could be made to the Supreme Court.
Ms Truss told Sky News she could not say exactly how many migrants would be on board the plane which is due to take off this evening.
But she rejected claims from Church of England leaders that the policy to put asylum seekers on a one-way flight to east Africa “shames Britain”.
The government has rejected this figure, but the cost of the deportation is believed to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The aim of the scheme is to deter people illegally crossing into the UK.
So far, 92 adults and 12 children have been brought ashore by Border Force officials today after attempting to cross the Channel. They said they came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Policy is unworkable, Labour says
Mr Johnson hit back at lawyers challenging the policy at Cabinet this morning.
“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,” the prime minister said.
In Kigali, the Rwandan capital, Sky News asked the country’s government how they felt about deportees saying they would rather die than be sent there.
Spokesperson Yolande Makolo said: “We don’t consider living in Rwanda a punishment.”
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell told Sky News: “We think this policy is unworkable… it’s incredibly expensive. It’s going to cost possibly over a million pounds per unsuccessful or successful refugee going to Rwanda. And we do think it’s unethical – and it’s quite un-British actually.”
Meanwhile, the archbishops of Canterbury and York – as well as 23 other bishops – have written a letter to The Times that claims no attempt has been made to “understand the predicament” of those affected.
Their letter says: “Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation.
“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.”
Last year, more than 28,000 people crossed the Channel in small boats – more than three times the number seen in 2020.
More than half were either Iranian or Iraqi, with people from Eritrea and Syria also making crossings, according to Home Office figures.