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Home secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and international co-operation, Vincent Biruta, signing the immigration agreement last month. (Photo: Flora Thompson via PA Wire/PA Images)
Flights taking illegal immigrants from the UK to Rwanda will not happen for “months”, despite Boris Johnson insisting he wanted them to begin in weeks.
In a major blow for the controversial policy, the prime minister’s official spokesman said legal challenges were one of the reasons behind the delay.
Johnson announced last month that anyone arriving in the UK via supposedly “illegal” means would be handed a one-way ticket to Rwanda.
Downing Street sources made clear that they expected the first flights to take off by the end of May.
Since the policy was announced, hundreds more migrants have continued to make the dangerous journey across the English Channel in search of a new life.
The PM’s spokesman this morning conceded that the government would miss its initial deportations target.
He said: “It’s too early to judge what the situation will be long-term on this policy. You will know – as we’ve seen – migrant crossings continue, criminal gangs continue to profit. This is unsustainable.”
Asked when the success or otherwise of the plan could be judged, the spokesman said: “I don’t think there’s a fixed date … obviously, there are a number of variables we need to deal with, not least some of the legal challenges which have been talked about.”
The spokesman was unable to say when the first flight would be: “We have received pre-action correspondence from a number of legal firms, I can’t get into that more … but we still maintain our hope to have the first flights take place in a matter of months.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.