UK cancels Rwanda deportation plan after EU ruling
The first flight scheduled for Rwanda was canceled on Tuesday.
The number of people scheduled to board the flight had been reduced from 130 to seven on Tuesday, and then to none owing to a last-minute judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Priti Patel, the British Home Secretary, expressed disappointment that the plane did not take off due to “legal challenge and last-minute claims," but promised to maintain the severely criticized policy.
In a statement, she vowed that "we will not be deterred."
“Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight and preparation for the next flight begins now.”
The foundation was provided by an ECHR judgment that at least one of the asylum seekers should remain in the UK since his legal future in Rwanda was uncertain.
Patel described the ECHR intervention as "very surprising" and promised that "many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next."
The flight cancellation is an embarrassment for Johnson's Conservative administration, as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss promised the Kigali-bound jet would take off regardless of the number of passengers on board.
Truss told Sky News on Tuesday that “there will be people on the flights and if they’re not on this flight, they will be on the next flight."
The ECHR imposed an urgent interim remedy to prevent the deportation of an Iraqi man who had been mistreated and whose asylum application had not been completed.
The Strasbourg-based court said the deportation should be postponed until British courts reach a final judgment on the constitutionality of the policy, which is scheduled for July.
The UN refugee agency has criticized the policy as "all wrong" in the past, but Truss was adamant about defending it, citing that human-trafficking gangs would be broken up.
Record numbers of migrants have crossed the hazardous Channel from northern France, putting pressure on the British government to act after it vowed to tighten borders following Brexit.
260 persons trying the passage in tiny boats were hauled ashore at the Channel port of Dover by 1200 GMT on Tuesday, according to British media. More than 10,000 people have crossed since the beginning of the year.
In a letter to The Times, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell wrote that “they (migrants) are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value.”
“We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law—which protects the right to claim asylum.”
Nevertheless, Truss still defended the plan.
Value for the money
Government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo in Kigali told reporters that “we don’t think it is immoral to offer a home to people."
Truss has not revealed the exact price of the charter flight, which has been estimated at $303,000, but she has said it was "value for the money" in order to tackle irregular migration.
Migrants in the northern French Channel port of Calais said the danger of deportation to Rwanda would not deter them from trying to reach Britain.
Moussa, 21, from Sudan's Darfur area, said the appeal was "getting papers". "That’s why we want to go to England,” he explained.
Deported asylum seekers who make the 4,000-mile (6,500-kilometer) journey to Kigali will be housed at the Hope Hostel, which was established in 2014 to house orphans from the 1994 genocide that killed nearly 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis.
Ismael Bakina, the hostel manager, stated that up to 100 migrants may be housed for $65 per person per day and that "this is not a prison."
The Kigali administration has dismissed claims that Rwanda is not a secure nation and that major human rights violations are common.
However, considering Rwanda's high young unemployment rate, Rwandan opposition parties have questioned whether the resettlement program will succeed.
Many people set to be deported were children
Migrant advocacy groups have been denouncing the policy as inhumane and illegal since UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan in April. The announcement of the plan came as Johnson faced the threat of a confidence vote, with some of his lawmakers saying they have lost faith in his leadership as a result of the partygate scandal.
London, however, has dismissed criticism that the policy was inhumane, claiming that it was worse to encourage a system in which many asylum-seekers are exploited by people smugglers.
The Refugee Council revealed that many of the people set to be deported on Tuesday's flight were children.
Migrants deported under the program would be forced to apply for asylum in Rwanda instead of the United Kingdom. London paid Rwanda 120 million pounds ($158 million) up front and will make additional payments based on the number of people it will be deporting in the future.