First migrant flight to Rwanda to go ahead with as few as 7 asylum seekers on board

13 June 2022, 16:39 | Updated: 13 June 2022, 21:32

The Court of Appeal has refused to grant an injunction blocking the first deportation flight to Rwanda.
The Court of Appeal has refused to grant an injunction blocking the first deportation flight to Rwanda. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The first deportation flight taking migrants to Rwanda will go ahead tomorrow with as few as seven people on board, after the Court of Appeal refused to grant an injunction blocking the move.

It will see migrants being given a one-way ticket to the east African nation as part of Home Secretary Priti Patel's bid to curb Channel crossings.

It comes after migrants - as well as campaign groups and a union - had asked judges at the Court of Appeal to block their upcoming deportation flight.

However, the Court of Appeal refused to grant an injunction on Monday meaning the controversial flight can go ahead.

The flight, which is due to leave the UK on Tuesday, was originally expected to take just 11 asylum seekers to Rwanda.

But Care4Calais, one of the charities that brought the appeal, said just seven still had live tickets.

The charity said 24 individuals the Government wanted to remove had succeeded in having their tickets cancelled.

Read more: 'It’s the government’s job': PM hits back at Charles in Rwanda migrants flights row

Read more: James O'Brien blasts Rwanda refugee scheme for appealing to 'vile racists'

Nick Ferrari grills Boris Johnson over Rwanda migrant plans

The injunction would have granted interim relief preventing the government from removing individuals to Rwanda until legal challenges against the policy have been heard by UK courts.

Over one hundred people who have sought asylum in the UK, including people who have fled Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Iran and Iraq, have been issued with removal notices following the signing of an agreement between the UK and Rwandan governments in April.

Another urgent injunction application by the charity Asylum Aid was heard in the High Court today, with its bid also rejected.

Conservatives cheered as an MP told the Commons a bid to block the Home Office's controversial policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda failed.

Mike Wood, Tory MP for Dudley South, flagged the judgment in the chamber and shouts of approval followed immediately from his colleagues, while Labour former minister Chris Bryant shouted ironically: "Bloody lefty lawyers."

Boris Johnson earlier defended his plans to send migrants to Rwanda after reported criticism from the Prince of Wales, who is understood to have privately condemned the plans, labelling them as "appalling".

A Clarence House spokesman did not deny that Charles was opposed to the policy, but said: "We would not comment on supposed anonymous private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except to restate that he remains politically neutral.

"Matters of policy are decisions for government."

Mr Johnson hit back at Charles' comments, telling LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast earlier: "What we need to do is stop the criminal gangs."

Asylum seekers at a Gatwick deportation centre.
Asylum seekers at a Gatwick deportation centre. Picture: Alamy

When confronted with comments understood to have been made by Prince Charles behind closed doors, the PM replied: “I do think it’s the job of government to stop people breaking the law and to support people who are doing the right thing.

Nick asked the PM: “Would one flight justify this policy? Just one person being removed?”

Mr Johnson said: "I think it's very important that the criminal gangs who are putting people's lives at risk in the Channel is going to be broken - is being broken - by this Government.

"They are selling people a false hope, they are luring them into something extremely risky and criminal."

Previously, the Home Office said it expected legal challenges but is "determined to deliver this new partnership" and insisted the policy "fully complies with international and national law".

While Downing Street said Boris Johnson remains confident the policy is legal.

The policy to forcibly send to Rwanda asylum seekers who arrive in the UK in unauthorised Channel crossings has been criticised by some MPs and campaigners.

It was brought forward after a £120 million economic deal was struck with Rwanda and cash for each removal is expected to follow.