UK asylum seeker flight to Rwanda cancelled

Rwanda asylum seeker flight

Plans to send a flight of asylum seekers to Rwanda from the UK have been abandoned after a dramatic 11th-hour ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The decision to cancel the flight capped three days of frantic court challenges from immigrant rights lawyers. They had launched a flurry of case-by-case appeals to block the deportation of everyone on the government’s list.

Britain in recent years has seen an illegal influx of migrants from such places as Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Iraq and Yemen.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in April that certain asylum seekers arriving in the UK would be sent to the African country, Rwanda.

Johnson made an agreement with Rwanda that people who entered Britain illegally would be deported to the East African country. In exchange for accepting them, Rwanda will receive millions of pounds (dollars) in development aid. The deportees will be allowed to apply for asylum in Rwanda, not Britain.

The bishops of England and Wales described Johnson’s new policy as “shameful”.

“The UK’s plans to forcibly deport to Rwanda some of those seeking refuge in our country is shamefully illustrative of what Pope Francis has called the ‘loss of that sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters on which every civil society is based’,” the prelates said in a statement published on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Johnson had emphatically defended Britain’s plan, arguing that it is a legitimate way to protect lives and thwart the criminal gangs that smuggle migrants across the English Channel in small boats.

Responding to the decision, Patel said she was “disappointed” by the legal challenge. She made pointed criticisms of the ECHR ruling and noted that the policy would continue.

“We will not be deterred from doing the right thing and delivering our plans to control our nation’s borders,” she said. “Our legal team are reviewing every decision made on this flight, and preparation for the next flight begins now.”

The Rwandan government said it was still committed to taking in asylum seekers sent by the UK. “We are not deterred by these developments. Rwanda remains fully committed to making this partnership work,” government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo told AFP.

“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.”

Johnson hinted that the UK could leave the ECHR to make removing illegal migrants from the UK easier.

Asked whether it was time for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR after the government’s difficulty in implementing its Rwanda policy, the prime minister said: “Will it be necessary to change some laws to help us as we go along? It may very well be.”


The Guardian

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