- The first scheduled flight with asylum seekers to Rwanda as part of a controversial British policy was canceled on Tuesday due to a last-minute ruling.
- The ground was due to a ECtHR ruling that at least one of the asylum seekers had to remain in Britain because there were no guarantees of his legal future in Rwanda.
- The failed flight is an embarrassment to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government after members insisted the plane depart for Kigali.
A maiden flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda as part of a controversial UK policy was canceled on Tuesday as an embarrassing blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.
The number of those to be displaced had dwindled from an original 130 to seven on Tuesday and ultimately none thanks to a last-minute ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Rights group Care4Calais tweeted:
Last ticket cancelled. NO ONE GOES TO RWANDA
The ground was due to a ECtHR ruling that at least one of the asylum seekers had to remain in Britain because there were no guarantees of his legal future in Rwanda.
The failed flight is an embarrassment to Johnson’s Conservative government after Secretary of State Liz Truss insisted the plane depart for Kigali regardless of how many people were on board.
Truss told Sky News earlier on Tuesday:
There will be people on the flights and if they are not on this flight they will be on the next flight.
The ECtHR has issued an urgent interim measure to prevent the deportation of an Iraqi man who was booked on the flight, because he may have been tortured and his asylum application has not been processed.
The court in Strasbourg said the eviction must wait until the British courts make a final decision on the legality of the policy, which is scheduled for July.
Care4Calais tweeted that the same measure could be applied to the others who will be transported to Rwanda.
Truss said the policy, which has been criticized by the UN refugee agency as “completely wrong”, was vital in breaking up gangs that exploit human trafficking.
Record numbers of migrants have made the perilous crossing of the Channel from northern France, putting pressure on the London government to act after promising to tighten borders after Brexit.
British media said about 260 people attempting the crossing in small boats were landed in the Channel Port of Dover at 1200 GMT on Tuesday.
More than 10,000 have crossed since the beginning of the year.
Legal challenges in recent days had failed to halt the deportation policy, which the two top Anglican Church clerics and 23 bishops said were “immoral” and “shame Britain”.
“They (migrants) are the vulnerable whom the Old Testament values us,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell wrote in a letter to The Times.
The letter added:
We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities or ignore international law that protects the right to asylum.
It was reported last weekend that Queen Elizabeth II’s heir, Prince Charles, had personally described the government’s plan as “terrible”.
But Truss said, “The people who are immoral in this case are the people smugglers who deal in human misery.”
In Kigali, government spokesman Yolande Makolo told reporters it was an “innovative program” to tackle “a broken global asylum system”.
“We don’t think it’s immoral to offer people a home,” she said at a news conference.
Johnson had told his senior ministers that the policy was “the right thing to do”.
A Boeing 767, intended to bring some asylum seekers to Rwanda, stands on the runway of the military base in Amesbury, Salisbury, on June 14, 2022.
Truss said she was unable to provide figures on the cost of the charter flight, which is estimated to be more than $303,000.
But she insisted it was “value for money” to reduce the long-term costs of illegal migration, which the government says costs British taxpayers 1.5 billion a year, including 5 million a day in housing.
In the Channel Port of Calais, in northern France, migrants said the risk of deportation to Rwanda would not stop them from reaching Britain.
Moussa, 21, from Sudan’s Darfur region, said “getting papers” was the attraction. “That’s why we want to go to England,” he said.
Deported asylum seekers who make the 6,500-kilometer journey to Kigali will be accommodated at the Hope Hostel, which was built in 2014 to house orphans who suffered the 1994 genocide of approximately 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis.
Hostel manager Ismael Bakina said up to 100 migrants can be accommodated at a rate of $65 per person per day and that “this is not a prison”.
The government in Kigali has rejected criticism that Rwanda is not a safe country and that there have been serious human rights violations.
Rwandan opposition parties have also questioned whether the resettlement scheme will work given the high youth unemployment rates.
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