Update and videoThe first flight to bring immigrants from the United Kingdom to Rwanda has been canceled tonight due to a last-minute intervention by the European Human Rights Court (ECtHR). It ruled that there was ‘a real risk of irreversible damage’ for the asylum seekers concerned.
A Privilege Style Boeing 767-300 was reportedly on standby at Stansed today. Awaiting final attempts by lawyers in a London court to get illegal immigrants off the flight, it was unclear until the last minute whether the pilot could set course for East Africa. The British government wants to accommodate boat people in Rwanda and the first flight is scheduled for tonight.
Foreign Minister Liz Truss spoke confidently in the morning. Even if there was only one passenger on board, the plane would make the 6,500-kilometer journey to Kigali. The plan, created by the British government to cut off people smugglers, could not be delayed, she said. The crossing of refugees in inflatable boats from France to Dover had to stop.
Of the original 132 designated immigrants, only seven were left on the day of departure. Courts recognized that the British authorities violated human rights. In other cases, lawyers were able to demonstrate that their clients were ‘modern slaves’. By mid-evening, four appeals had been rejected, and it looked like at least four immigrants would make the trip.
human rights court
A ruling by the European Human Rights Court (ECtHR) in Strasbourg sparked a legal battle at the last minute. The Court confirmed at about 8:40 p.m. that it had blocked the deportation of one of the seven immigrants. It was an Iraqi asylum seeker. A British picket judge (on duty outside office hours) investigated the remaining six cases.
According to a government source who wished to remain anonymous, the flight will no longer depart on Tuesday evening. According to the latest information, only one of those six migrants was left for deportation. ‘The Human Rights Court has prevented two more people from being sent to Rwanda. The ticket of two others has been cancelled. Only one remains,” aid organization Care4Calais reported on Twitter. Followed a little later by: ‘The last ticket has also been cancelled. Nobody goes to Rwanda’.
Truss refused to put an amount on the flight, but according to rough estimates, the costs for chartering the aircraft are 600,000 euros.
The policy is extremely sensitive in the UK. Prince Charles sent home newspaper via the palace The Times find the deportations to Rwanda ‘terrible’. In the same newspaper, the Anglican Church opposed the ‘immoral’ decision in an open letter. “Our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat refugees with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have done for centuries,” religious leaders wrote.
Our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat refugees with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have done for centuries
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the opposite. Anyone who opposes the controversial method supports the criminal organizations that, this year alone, have crammed 10,131 people into rickety boats for hefty payments. Critics, including customs officials, recognize that the flights to Kigali are a populist act of a government in distress. Johnson would like to win back the right-wing voter after various scandals.
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Immigration spearheaded the EU referendum in 2016. The so-called Leave camp, which united proponents of Brexit, promised to make the borders watertight. The continuous flow of photos of refugees crossing the Channel creates an image of impotence. By pushing through the flight to Rwanda, Johnson wants to make a statement.
By signing a Memorandum of Understanding – not a treaty – with Rwanda, Johnson bypasses parliament. The British Senate, in which 23 Anglican bishops sit, wants to investigate whether the plan nevertheless goes against international agreements. The Supreme Court gave Johnson the benefit of the doubt yesterday afternoon. The plane was allowed to take off, provided deportees could return if the plan turns out to be in violation of the law.
Rwanda will receive almost 200 million euros from the UK for the five-year pilot. This sum can add up if the operation goes smoothly. In the country, labeled as unsafe by the United Nations, the refugees come to hostels. If they are granted asylum, they are allowed to work and study. Minister Truss is not deterred by the legal setback. She promised that the flights to Kigali will be full before the end of the year.
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