First Rwanda deportation flight cancelled after last-minute legal challenges

The planned first flight deporting asylum seekers to live in Rwanda was dramatically cancelled on Tuesday night following last-minute legal challenges.

Government sources said that due to last minute interventions by the European Court of Human Rights all migrants were removed from the plane and the flight to Rwanda would not be taking off as scheduled.

It came just hours after Boris Johnson suggested he is willing to take the UK out of the European Convention of Human Rights to head off future legal challenges to the Government’s controversial policy.

Asked during a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire if it was time for the UK to withdraw from the Convention, the Prime Minister said all options were under review.

A Boeing 767 aircraft at MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, which is believed to be the plane that had been due to take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.

“The legal world is very good at picking up ways of trying to stop the Government from upholding what we think is a sensible law,” he said. “Will it be necessary to change some rules to help us as we go along? It very well may be. All these options are under constant review.”

The ECHR currently applies to all 47 members of the Council of Europe, including the UK, and is separate from EU law. It was originally proposed by Winston Churchill and came into effect in 1953.

Mr Johnson made the remarks a few hours before the European Court of Human Rights initially granted an urgent interim measure to stop one asylum seeker being flown to Rwanda last night at a point when he was among seven due to be on the flight.

The court said the man, an Iraqi national who arrived by boat to the UK last month and who a British medical assessment has indicated may have been a victim of torture, should not be removed to Rwanda until three weeks after a final decision is made on his ongoing legal appeal to stay in the UK.

The judgment said that the court “had regard” for concerns identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that asylum seekers transferred from the UK to Rwanda “will not have access to fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status”.

It added: “In light of the resulting risk of treatment contrary to the applicant’s Convention rights as well as the fact that Rwanda is outside the Convention legal space (and is therefore not bound by the European Convention on Human Rights) and the absence of any legally enforceable mechanism for the applicant’s return to the United Kingdom in the event of a successful merits challenge before the domestic courts, the Court has decided to grant this interim measure to prevent the applicant’s removal until the domestic courts have had the opportunity to first consider those issues.”

Further similar injunctions were made before the flight took off.

Earlier in the day, other asylum seekers due to be on board the first flight lost legal challenges in British courts.

Four men who challenged their removal at the High Court in London had their cases dismissed, while a fifth man lost a bid to bring an appeal at the Supreme Court.

The Government already plans a shake-up of human rights laws, with a new Bill of Rights promised in the Queen’s Speech delivered in May. But the

Prime Minister hinting at leaving the European Convention on Human Rights would be a much bigger step, potentially triggering a fresh conflict with Tory moderates.

Mr Johnson has also drawn criticism for suggesting lawyers representing migrants were “abetting the work of criminal gangs”. The Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales issued a joint statement condemning the “misleading and dangerous” comments from the Prime Minister.

It comes as Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, who represents the village of Linton-on-Ouse, where the Home Office wants to place 1,500 asylum seekers, said it is “unlikely” that anyone will be placed there this month.

Rwanda officials hit back at 'immoral' accusations

Rwandan officials have hit back at claims from Church of England leaders that the UK’s asylum deal with their country is immoral.

The country’s government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said: “We don’t think it’s immoral to offer a home to people. People may have their own opinions on what this problem is like, depending on where they come from, but from where we come from we’re doing this for the right reasons.

“We want to be a welcoming place and we’ll do our best to make sure that migrants are taken care of, and that they’re able to build a life here. We do not consider living in Rwanda a punishment.”

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