Rwanda flight chaos after "deluge" of legal claims from all 31 migrants facing deportation

12 June 2022, 19:26 | Updated: 13 June 2022, 07:59

Protesters chanted "no Rwanda" as they rallied outside the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre
Protesters chanted "no Rwanda" as they rallied outside the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The first flight to Rwanda may not have a single migrant on it after the Home Office faces a "deluge" of legal challenges on behalf of every migrant due to be deported on Tuesday.

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Human rights lawyers have brought legal claims on behalf of all 31 of the migrants due to be deported to the African country this week.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents more than 80 per cent of Border Force staff, predicted the flight will not take place this week.

Whilst a Home Office source told the Daily Mail that there is a "real prospect" the courts could delay the removal of every migrant due to fly on Tuesday.

"Over the weekend there have been new claims every hour and we expect more right up to when the flight goes.

"We will operate the flight even if there is just one person on it, but there is a real prospect that even that might not be possible," a source told the newspaper.

Nick Ferrari will be speaking to Boris Johnson this morning from 8.20am - listen live on Global Player.

Despite objections, Rwanda's lead negotiator for the deportation agreement with the UK has said the country is ready to accept people in "tens of thousands", but will start on a gradual basis.

Read more: Rachel Johnson backs Rwandan refugee plan which could save 'thousands of lives'

Doris Uwicyeza, chief technical adviser to the Rwandan Ministry of Justice, told Tom Swarbrick on LBC: "Rwanda stands ready to receive as many as possible under this partnership, we have the capacity to receive in the tens of thousands but for the moment it will be on a gradual basis.

"The UK is providing substantial investment to boost the development of Rwanda, including jobs, skills and opportunities to benefit both migrants and host communities."

Ms Uwicyeza also defended Rwanda's human rights record and said it was not illegal to be homosexual.

She added: "Not at all, actually based on our history we understand the importance of protecting anybody from hate speech and discrimination, this is not tolerated in our society, the freedom from discrimination due to sexual orientation of a person is guaranteed in our constitution and the rule of law is there to enforce that."

Asked how long people will be granted temporary residency while the UK tests their claim, Ms Uwicyeza said: "It is Rwanda that will be testing the claim, these people are coming to Rwanda to be relocated and re-integrated in Rwandan society.

Read more: Rwanda defends migrant plan as protests erupt and Prince Charles slams 'appalling policy'

"The people send under this partnership are sent to have their asylum claim tested by Rwandan authorities under Rwandan law, they are for integration in Rwandan society.

"This is not an offshore processing mechanism, they are here to be processed in Rwanda and integrated in Rwandan society, they will have their refugee claims assessed by our refugee status determination committee and once granted a refugee status or any other resident status, they will be given IDs and travel documents."

Asked what happens if a person who wants to make a claim for the UK is sent to Rwanda and does not want to make a claim to live in Rwanda, she added: "If they do not wish to reside in Rwanda ... there are mechanisms in place to ensure their safe return to their country of origin or to a third origin where they would have a right to reside, it needs to be stressed that nobody will be sent to a country where they do not have the right to reside and that nobody will be deported if they don't have a safe country to go to."

Crowds gathered outside of an immigration removal centre on Sunday in opposition to Government plans to start sending migrants to the east African country.

Protesters chanted "no Rwanda" as they rallied outside the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre, close to Gatwick Airport, near Crawley, West Sussex.

Demonstrators shook the outer fence of an immigration removal centre on Sunday in protest at the Government's Rwanda policy - and people inside the facility appeared to be shouting back.

Dozens of activists shouted "we are with you", "set them free" and "deportations no more... Britain is a racist state".

Some activists banged the outer fence of the immigration centre and people inside the compound sounded like they were chanting back.

In unison with protesters, people inside appeared to chant: "No Rwanda."

The plans would see some people who have entered the UK illegally flown to Rwanda to seek asylum there.

A High Court ruling means the first flight to the east African country could proceed on Tuesday but campaigners are due to challenge this in the Court of Appeal on Monday.

Read more: UK to take 'most vulnerable' refugees from Rwanda under deal, says scheme's negotiator

At the protest, teacher Jane Fisher, of Croydon, south London, who volunteers with Care for Calais, which delivers emergency aid to refugees, said: "There is a young boy called Sami and he was from Afghanistan, his parents and his sister were blown up in a car bomb and he is 17 and he has come across.

"He is really frightened he is going to be sent to Rwanda.

"He keeps asking about it because the refuges don't know what is happening.

"I meet some amazing people and all of them have got horrible stories."

Abbas Artan, 24, an asylum seeker originally from Somalia who crossed from Calais to the UK in a small boat in October, says he has been living in limbo at the Radisson Red hotel near Gatwick Airport for the past eight months.

On the Rwanda policy, he said: "The Government must stop this because the people suffer a lot.

"Someone comes here to change his life, to send them back to Rwanda when there is nothing there... some people have said 'I will kill myself if I'm sent there'."

Read more: Prince Charles 'slams Rwanda migrant plan' as High Court rules first flight can go ahead

In unison with protesters, people inside appeared to chant: "No Rwanda."
In unison with protesters, people inside appeared to chant: "No Rwanda.". Picture: Alamy

He said he fled Somalia because the militant jihadist group Al-Shabaab tried to recruit him as a soldier and knocked out his teeth with the butt of a gun when he refused.

His journey to the UK saw him cross from Somalia to Ethiopia, then Sudan, Libya, Italy, Sweden, Germany and France, before crossing the Channel.

Christian Hogsberg, 42, a history lecturer at the University of Brighton, said he was at the protest against the Government's Rwanda policy to "show solidarity with refugees who are facing the danger of deportation to authoritarian regime Rwanda at the hands of a Tory Government that is playing the race card in the most shameful manner".

He accused ministers of trying to get Britons "to blame people who are some of the poorest and most powerless people in the world rather than those who are really responsible for the cost-of-living crisis in our country".

Migrants rights groups hold a show of support for people detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick
Migrants rights groups hold a show of support for people detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick. Picture: Alamy

Up to 130 people have been told they could be deported, and on Friday the High Court in London heard that 31 people were due on the first flight, with the Home Office planning that more planes will go later this year.

The first claim against the policy was brought by lawyers on behalf of some asylum seekers alongside the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), as well as groups Care4Calais and Detention Action, which are challenging the policy on behalf of everyone affected.

Read more: Rwanda flight to remove asylum seekers from UK can go ahead, High Court rules

The Prince of Wales is reportedly "more than disappointed" by the Rwanda policy, allegedly privately calling it "appalling", according to reports in The Times and The Daily Mail.

On Sunday, Rwanda's lead negotiator for the deportation agreement with the UK said the country is ready to accept people in "tens of thousands" but will start on a gradual basis.