UK government defends policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda
Despite heavy criticism, the UK government insists on continuing with its policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The UK government on Tuesday defended its controversial policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss insisted the first flight to Kigali, believed to be operated by Spanish charter firm Privilege Style, would take off, no matter how many people were on board.
Only seven people are now due to be deported because of legal challenges and reviews of their cases - well down on the 130 initially that were estimated by the authorities.
"We're expecting to send the flight later today," Truss told Sky News but said she was unable to confirm the numbers due to be on board.
"There will be people on the flights and if they're not on this flight, they will be on the next flight," she added.
Truss claimed that the policy, which the UN refugee agency has criticized as "all wrong", was vital to break up human-trafficking gangs exploiting vulnerable migrants.
Record numbers of migrants have made the dangerous Channel crossing from northern France, pressuring the government in London to act after it promised to tighten borders after Brexit.
British media said some 260 people attempting the crossing in small boats were brought ashore at the Channel port of Dover by 1200 GMT on Tuesday.
More than 10,000 people have crossed since the start of the year.
UK to send first asylum seekers to Rwanda
A chartered plane is due to leave one of London's airports overnight and land in Kigali on Tuesday, campaigners said, after UK judges rejected an appeal against the deportations.
Claimants had argued that a decision on the policy should have waited until a full hearing on the legality of the policy next month.
Those due to be deported include Albanians, Iraqis, Iranians, and a Syrian, Care4Calais said.
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.