Ministers ‘highly confident’ Rwanda deportation flights will go ahead

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The Government is “highly confident” that the next deportation flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda will go ahead, a Cabinet minister has said after an 11th-hour legal ruling halted the first departure.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said ministers were “surprised and disappointed” by the ruling late on Tuesday by a judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

However she said work is already under way at the Home Office to prepare for the next flight to the east African nation to take place.

Backbencher Andrea Jenkyns tweeted: “Yes let’s withdraw from European Court of Human Rights and stop their meddling in British law.”

(PA Graphics)

Ms Coffey said she was “not aware of any decisions or even hints” within Government about the UK withdrawing from the convention.

“The Government is disappointed by the decision. I have never known such a quick decision made by somebody at the ECHR. I think the public will be surprised at European judges overruling British judges,” she told Sky News.

“Nevertheless I know the Home Office is already getting ready for the next flight and we will to continue to prepare and try and overturn any future legal challenges as well.”

Asked how confident she is that the next flight will be able to go ahead, she said: “I am highly confident.”

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said ministers have only themselves to blame for what happened.

“This Government has abandoned all British decency and common sense.”

Earlier, the ECHR said it had granted an urgent interim measure in regards to an Iraqi national who was due to be on the flight, and it is understood the court was considering a number of further requests.

It said the individual concerned should not be removed until ongoing judicial review proceedings in the British courts challenging the legality of the deportation policy have been completed.

Migrant Crisis
Protesters at the perimeter of MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, where a Boeing 767 aircraft was believed to due to take asylum seekers to Rwanda (Andrew Matthews/PA)

In a statement following the ruling on Tuesday, she described the ECHR’s intervention as “very surprising”, adding that “many of those removed from this flight will be placed on the next”.

She said the Home Office legal team is reviewing “every decision made on this flight”, and that preparation for the next flight “begins now”.

“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.

“It is very surprising that the European Court of Human Rights has intervened despite repeated earlier success in our domestic courts.

Priti Patel (Danny Lawson/PA)
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the ECHR’s intervention as ‘very surprising’ (Danny Lawson/PA)

“We will not be deterred from doing the right thing and delivering our plans to control our nation’s borders.

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

Migrant Crisis
A Boeing 767 at MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, believed to be the plane due to take asylum seekers to Rwanda (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Rwanda remains fully committed to making this partnership work. The current situation of people making dangerous journeys cannot continue as it is causing untold suffering to so many.

“Rwanda stands ready to receive the migrants when they do arrive and offer them safety and opportunity in our country.”

However the ruling was welcomed by James Wilson, deputy director of Detention Action, which is one of the groups that has been challenging the deportation policy through the courts.

“Last night was a night for the history books and the European Court of Human Rights, which was founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust, has done what it was established to do,” he said.

“It rarely intervenes in the legal matters of member countries. That it has done so now shows how potentially dangerous the Government’s Rwanda removals policy is.”

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