British judges also blocked Rwanda flight deportations at 11th hour, Court of Appeal confirms

British as well as European judges blocked planned deportations of asylum seekers to Rwanda on the first planned flight to the country, it has emerged.

The planned flight on Tuesday night never took off following successful 11th-hour legal challenges.

Home Secretary Priti Patel told Parliament that the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights had prohibited the removal of three people scheduled to be on the flight.

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It has also been revealed that Court of Appeal judges in the UK granted injunctions to three asylum seekers whose challenges were dismissed at the High Court on Tuesday.

A planned deportation flight to Rwanda was cancelled following successful legal challenges.A planned deportation flight to Rwanda was cancelled following successful legal challenges.
A planned deportation flight to Rwanda was cancelled following successful legal challenges.

The court confirmed yesterday afternoon that three judges held an urgent hearing at 9.50pm on Tuesday – just 40 minutes before the flight was due to take off.

The injunction prevents the removal of the men until after a challenge against the decision of Mr Justice Swift to reject their bids to remain in the UK pending the full judicial review of the Rwanda relocation policy – due to be heard in July.

The Court of Appeal will hear applications for permission to appeal by the three men on June 28.

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The Home Secretary told MPs it was “inevitable” there would be legal challenges to the Government’s policy.

But she added: “This Government will not be deterred from doing the right thing. We will not be put off by the inevitable legal last-minute challenges.”

In a reference to protests against the plans, she added: “Nor will we allow mobs to block removals.”

She said the Strasbourg court’s decisions “are not an absolute bar on their transfer to Rwanda”.

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Anyone ordered to be released by the courts “will be tagged while we continue to progress their relocation”, she said.

Shadow Home Secretary and Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper branded the Rwanda policy a “shambles”.

She told the Home Secretary: “She knows this is unworkable, unethical and won’t stop the criminal gangs but yet she still went ahead and spent half a million pounds chartering a plane she never expected to fly.

“She still went ahead and wrote a £120 million cheque to Rwanda with a promise of more to come and she still went ahead because all she really cares about is picking fights and finding someone else to blame.

“This isn’t a long-term plan, is a short-term stunt.

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“Everyone can see it, it’s not a serious policy, it’s shameless posturing and she knows it. It’s not building consensus, it’s just pursuing division. It is Government by gimmick.”

The row which has followed the legal orders that ended up grounding the flight has seen Downing Street refusing to rule out withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Asked if the Government could withdraw from the ECHR, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are keeping all options on the table including any further legal reforms that may be necessary. We will look at all of the legislation and processes in this round.”

Attorney General Suella Braverman echoed that position and said many people would be frustrated at the role played by a “foreign court”.

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Pressed on whether withdrawing from the ECHR was a possibility, she told the BBC’s World At One programme: “We’re not ruling anything in and we’re not ruling anything out. We are definitely open to assessing all options available as to what our relationship should be going forward with the European Court of Human Rights.”

A succession of Tory MPs pushed for the UK to withdraw from the ECHR. Because neither the convention nor the court are European Union creations, the UK’s membership was unaffected by Brexit.

Conservative MP Alexander Stafford, who represents Rother Valley, asked in the Commons: “Can the Home Secretary confirm that despite this despicable ruling from the foreign European Court of Justice that we are committed to relocating illegal immigrants to Rwanda and when can we look forward to – in Rother Valley – wheels down regarding the first flight?”

Ms Patel noted Mr Stafford’s “enthusiasm for this Government’s work and policy when it comes to removals and deportation”, adding the policy is “lawful”.

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