Just seven migrants on flight to Rwanda despite rejection of last-ditch asylum appeal

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Rwanda protesters High Court - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Rwanda protesters High Court - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Only seven migrants at most are due to fly out on Tuesday on the first asylum flights to Rwanda, despite Priti Patel winning two court challenges to suspend the controversial policy.

The two last-ditch pleas on Monday for injunctions to block the flight were rejected, paving the way for the plane to fly to Kigali, in Rwanda.

However, just seven out of 130 migrants originally notified that they would be deported to Rwanda remain on the flight, after individual appeals by their lawyers claiming breaches of their human rights or that they have been victims of modern slaverey.

Home Office sources admitted there is a risk that the flight, thought to have cost around £250,000 to charter, could be cancelled. However, they have maintained it will still take off, even if there is just one left on the manifest.

A government source said: “They are going to try to work out how to get every single last person off this flight. They will try every trick in the book. There is no guarantee that the flight will take off.”

A detainee inside the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, as demonstrators protest outside - Toby Melville/Reuters
A detainee inside the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, as demonstrators protest outside - Toby Melville/Reuters

It came after Court of Appeal judges rejected a last-ditch legal bid to block the first flight by charities Care4Calais and Detention Action and the Public and Commercial Services union, representing Border Force staff.

Lawyers for the three groups and one Iraqi migrant due to be removed asked for the injunction to ground the flight to Rwanda until the full hearing of whether the policy is lawful next month.

Raza Husain QC argued that the judge who refused to block the flight on Friday, Mr Justice Swift, had wrongly decided the "balance of convenience".

But, following an urgent hearing in London on Monday, three senior judges dismissed the appeal, saying there was no error in the decision of Mr Justice Swift.

Lord Justice Singh, sitting with Lady Justice Simler and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, said Mr Justice Swift had "conducted the balancing exercise properly" and did not err in principle, nor in the approach he took.

He added: "He weighed all the factors and reached a conclusion which he was reasonably entitled to reach on the material before him. This court cannot therefore interfere with that conclusion."

A second last-minute legal move for an injunction by Asylum Aid was also rejected on Monday by Mr Justice Swift. Charlotte Kilroy QC, for the charity, claimed the asylum seekers were "effectively guinea pigs" for a process which had not been properly tested.

Both courts effectively accepted the Government’s arguments that the Rwanda policy was justified in the public interest to deter migrants from making dangerous and unnecessary journeys across the Channel from third safe countries, where they could have claimed asylum.

'Very active lawyers'

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, had earlier said he had expected “very active lawyers” to try to block the flight, but confirmed it would leave even if it took just one migrant to the African country.

He said: “We have always said that we knew that this policy would attract attacks from those who want to have a completely open-doors approach to immigration, who want people to be able to come across the Channel without let or hindrance.

“There are very active lawyers in this field. I have the utmost respect for the legal profession, but it is also important we stop criminal gangs.”

In the House of Commons, there were cheers from Tory MPs at the news of the court judgments. Peter Bone, the Conservative MP, urged ministers to overbook flights to counter the work of "Lefty lawyers."

He said: "Instead of booking 50 people on each flight to Rwanda, book 250 people on it and then when they stop half of them from travelling, you still have a full flight. Come on, get on and send them!"

Migrants arriving in Dover on Monday - Stuart Brock/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Migrants arriving in Dover on Monday - Stuart Brock/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Figures released by the Ministry of Defence on Tuesday revealed that 111 migrants crossed the Channel on Monday, taking this year’s total to 10,131 - a figure that was not reached until August last year.